As anyone who reads the health blogs and news reports knows, resveratrol is a natural substance that is widely studied for its "anti-aging" properties among other things. Recently, a French research team has shown that there may be some other benefits to this compound. At least, research in the primate lemurs has shown that scientists may soon have a clearer understanding of the factors that govern obesity in humans.
Work by a team in the "Mécanismes adaptatifs : des organismes aux communautés" Laboratory (CNRS/Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle) has revealed that this compound reduces weight gain in lemurs. Such findings provide new information regarding the effects of resveratrol on energy metabolism and the control of body mass in primates. This study is published on 22 June 2010 in BMC Physiology.
Resveratrol is a plant compound that is present in certain fruits, such as grape skins, blackberries and peanuts, etc. This compound has been widely studied, notably regarding its effects on aging, as it has demonstrated that it can increase longevity in numerous animal models. This natural substance also improves the health and survival of mice fed a hyperlipidic diet, but until now, no studies had been performed on primates in this field.
The team led by Dr. Fabienne Aujard has studied the effects of resveratrol on the metabolism of grey mouse lemurs (Microcebus murinus). With a lifespan of 8 to 10 years, this small primate is a lemur, which is an animal model for studies on aging. It displays very pronounced seasonal physiological rhythms: its metabolism and body weight fluctuate on a seasonal basis. The researchers added resveratrol to the feed of the lemurs while regularly measuring their body temperature, weight gain and resting metabolic rate. After four weeks, they observed an immediate effect: the animals had reduced their food intake by 13% and increased their resting metabolic rate (which represents a proportion of their energy expenditure) by 29%.
The ingestion of resveratrol thus enabled the lemurs to considerably reduce their weight gain at a time of the year when they have a natural tendency to increase their body mass so as to store as much energy as possible before the mating season. In addition, modifications to the body temperature of treated animals were observed, suggesting that resveratrol might also modify the energy strategies developed by this primate. This effect, which is not observed in rodents, may thus be specific to primates. Furthermore, the short-term findings of this study were recently confirmed by the initial results of Fabienne Aujard's team as part of a study of the long-term effects of resveratrol on the delayed appearance of age-related deficits and an increase in the longevity of grey mouse lemurs.
These findings represent an important step towards the development of treatments for human obesity, which results from a prolonged imbalance between energy intake and expenditure.