Resveratrol: A Key to Longevity

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Resveratrol is a substance in red wine that seems to allow mice to live up to 20-50 percent longer. Given in high doses resveratrol seems to block many of the bad effects of high-caloric diets. The fact is that the doses given to the mice was far larger than anyone can get by drinking red wine. The equivalent dose in a human would require that the person drink about 300 glasses per day, enough to destroy the liver in fairly short order.

Currently, resveratrol can be found in some dietary supplements. The major source is from a plant grown in China called the Giant Knotweed. But thoroughly documented experiments that show the actual life extending effects of resveratrol have not yet been made. However, Sirtris Pharmaceuticals Inc, has begun testing resveratrol-based drugs on diabetes patients.

Resveratrol seems to work by mimicking a proven life extending process called calorie restriction (also known as CR). Calorie restriction involves reducing food intake by a third and has been shown (as early as the 1930s) to extend lifespan in animals by 30-40 percent. However, this type of regimen is considered too rigorous to most people.

Although there are other substances that have shown to have similar effects (metformin, for one) resveratrol is the first that has shown cross species application and also has been ingested by humans for thousands of years.

Studies at Harvard Medical School showed how Resveratrol had benefits for yeast, extending the lifespan by 70 percent. Speculation then arose that perhaps resveratrol accounted for what has become known as the "French Paradox" - the fact that the French eat high fat diets, drink a lot of wine, and have a longer than average lifespan.

Resveratrol in the amounts available in dietary supplements is considered safe according to an article in the November 2,2006 issue of the Wall Street Journal. The high doses given to mice indicated that there might be problems associated with the liver. This, however, would require a human to take hundreds of resveratrol pills daily in order to equal the doses given to mice.

Besides the anti-aging effects, resveratrol (which is sometimes called reservatrol) has also been shown to increase activity and endurance in aging mice. It is thought that this might be because resveratrol stimulates an enzyme called SIRT1 which helps to spur the growth of new mitochondria in cells. (Mitochondria are the organelles of a cell that convert fuel to energy).

Is this a promising new drug to help increase human longevity...only time can tell.

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