Red wine, already linked to healthy hearts and protection against certain cancers, may slow down the aging process by activating a specific aging-related gene, says a new study.
Using mice, researchers looked at the effects of resveratrol, a compound found in red wine. It has previously been found to protect against diseases often associated with aging, such as type 2 diabetes. They found that when the anti-aging gene, SIRT1, was turned off in mice, resveratrol offered none of its longevity benefits.
The compound, said co-author David Sinclair of Harvard Medical School, "revs up the battery packs of the cells - the mitochondria - and if we delete SIRT1 in mice, resveratrol doesn't do that anymore."
"The decline in batteries is a major factor that makes us susceptible to diseases. The cells have more energy and live longer," he said. In addition, reversatrol contributes to longevity by mimicking the effects of diet and exercise.
"We do see the same protective effects in the animal as if they were on a very strict diet," said Sinclair.
Some of Sinclair's research had demonstrated the benefits of resveratrol on the SIRT1 pathway in other organisms, but a debate persisted over how it worked.
Other scientists argued that there must have been an explanation other than SIRT1 to account for their findings.
This study, he said, offers proof of the role SIRT1 plays in the relationship between resveratrol and aging, and could offer insight into how future anti-aging drugs may work.
But determining whether or not drinking some red wine will actually hold off old age is still a long way off. While there have been small studies examining the effects of resveratrol in humans, but so far, research has not shown how the compound affects people's aging.