A new study by an international team of researchers reports that low doses of resveratrol in the diet of middle-aged mice has a widespread influence on the genetic levers of aging and may confer special protection on the heart.
As you know by know, resveratrol is a key compound in red wine. We've had other articles here on the blog about the health value of red wine -- use the "search" function to pull them up.
Specifically, the researchers found that low doses of resveratrol mimic the effects of what is known as caloric restriction - diets with 20-30 percent fewer calories than a typical diet - that in numerous studies has been shown to extend lifespan and blunt the effects of aging.
Previous research has shown that resveratrol in high doses extends lifespan in invertebrates and prevents early mortality in mice given a high-fat diet. The new study, conducted by researchers from academia and industry, extends those findings, showing that resveratrol in low doses and beginning in middle age can elicit many of the same benefits as a reduced-calorie diet.
"Resveratrol is active in much lower doses than previously thought," says Tomas Prolla, a UW-Madison professor of genetics and a senior author of the new report.
The group explored the influence of the agent on heart, muscle and brain by looking for changes in gene expression in those tissues. As animals age, gene expression in the different tissues of the body changes as genes are switched on and off.
In short, a glass of wine or food or supplements that contain even small doses of resveratrol are likely to represent "a robust intervention in the retardation of cardiac aging," the authors note.
That finding may also explain the remarkable heart health of people who live in some regions of France where diets are soaked in saturated fats but the incidence of heart disease, a major cause of mortality in the United States, is low. In France, meals are traditionally complemented with a glass of red wine.
The new resveratrol study is also important because it suggests that caloric restriction, which has been widely studied in animals from spiders to humans, and resveratrol may govern the same master genetic pathways related to aging.
Personally, I'd rather enjoy a glass of red wine with a meal anytime as opposed to restricting my calorie intact to get the same effect!