They have discovered that resveratrol had the same effect on fruit flies and worms as the use of caloric restriction, one of the few methods demonstrated in several studies to retard ageing and promote lifespan among animals, as well as improve cardiovascular health.
The findings appear to suggest that people could take a pill to achieve the same benefits as strict dieting to live longer. However while supplement makers are already beginning to market the antioxidant resveratrol in capsules, to allow consumers to gain the health benefits of the compound without the alcohol, the new research has not yet been tested on people.
Resveratrol is also difficult to formulate for supplements as it oxidises very quickly, losing its efficacy.
Writing in an early online edition of Nature (14 July 2004; doi:10.1038/nature02789), David Sinclair from Harvard Medical School and colleagues at the University of Connecticut and Brown University in Rhode Island reported that resveratrol activated proteins called sirtuins in fruitflies and worms, extending their lifespan without reducing fertility.
Last year, Sinclair reported that the red wine antioxidant extended the life of yeast.
Meanwhile in June a different group of researchers reported that resveratrol significantly increased the activity level of a gene called SIRT1 in mice. Also found in humans, this gene has essentially the same function as SIR2 (that studied by Sinclair in the current study) and the same reaction to stimulus by resveratrol.
SIRT1 was found to increase the use of fat and reduces the formation of new fat cells.