For years, scientists have known that red wine can provide certain health benefits. Regular red wine drinkers often have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as other disorders associated with aging. Now researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are studying the active ingredient in red wine to see whether it might enhance longevity in some people.
Called resveratrol, the compound is found in grapes, berries and some seeds. Animal studies indicate that resveratrol may help slow aging by influencing a particular genetic pathway believed to play a role in regulating lifespan in animals, and Samuel Klein, M.D., the Danforth Professor of Medicine and Nutritional Science, says there is some evidence that the substance may act the same way in people. He’s giving study volunteers reseveratrol in pill form and comparing some markers of longevity in this group to those same markers in others who get a placebo, as well as a third group of individuals placed on a calorie restriction diet, which also has been linked to slower aging.
The researchers will be looking at aspects of metabolic function associated with aging. As people get older, they become less sensitive to insulin, so they study looks at insulin action in both the liver and in fat tissue and muscle tissue. They’ll also examine gene expression in these tissues because differences in gene expression also occur with aging. Finally, the researchers will analyze mitochondrial function in cells because the mitochondria that are the energy-producing components of cells also are affected by aging.
Subjects in the 12-week study will receive much higher doses of resveratrol than what they could get from drinking red wine alone.
“The amount in wine is quite small compared to what we can deliver in pill form,” Klein explains. “To get a comparable amount of this compound from wine alone, a person would need to drink about 600 bottles of wine per day.”
For now, Klein’s team is studying only post-menopausal women so that they are able to compare “apples to apples” and not have to worry about the influence of hormones in younger women or in men, who also have hormone variations. But Klein says if this study shows promise, the researchers hope to expand the pool of eligible participants. For more information about the study, please call Volunteer for Health at (314) 362-1000 or on visit the website at http://vfh.wustl.edu.