Sunday, July 02, 2006

Eat, Drink, and Be Eternal

For years, scientists have been telling us that drinking red wine can help prevent heart disease. But new evidence suggests a nice pinot noir may also help people whose hearts are perfectly healthy.

It has to do with a new understanding of a compound called resveratrol. Abundant in red wine, this powerful antioxidant is known to protect hearts. But Harvard researchers recently announced that resveratrol also seems to have a more far-reaching effect: It mimics the effects of caloric restriction, the only proven strategy for lengthening life. In numerous studies over the years, animals on very low-calorie diets lived significantly longer than those who ate a more typical daily amount. In the current study, this time on yeast, resveratrol stimulated activity of a protein that makes sugar-deprived yeast (the equivalent of a low-cal diet) live longer.

The effects were dramatic: The resveratrol-treated yeast lived 70 percent longer than normal yeast. Humans possess a similar protein, called SIRT1, but research into its effectiveness is only beginning. Still, the new discovery is another good excuse to drink a glass of the greatest beverage known to humankind.

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