Resveratrol (Molecule of the Month for November 2006)
Anti-Aging, Red Wine
Resveratrol is a substance that is produced by several plants and that is sold as a nutritional supplement. A number of beneficial health effects, such as anti-cancer, antiviral, neuroprotective, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory and life-prolonging effects have been reported. Resveratrol is found in the skin of red grapes and as a constituent of red wine may explain why the incidence of coronary heart disease is relatively low in southern France despite high dietary intake of saturated fats.
Resveratrol is produced by plants as an antifungal chemical. It is found in widely varying amounts in the skin of grapes, in peanuts, berries of Vaccinum species, including blueberries, bilberries, and cranberries, some pines, such as Scots pine and eastern white pine, and the roots and stalks of giant knotweed and Japanese knotweed, called hu zhang in China. The amount of resveratrol in food substances varies greatly. Ordinary non-muscadine Red wine contains between 0.2 and 5.8 mg/L , depending on the grape variety, whilst white wine has much less - the reason being that red wine is fermented with the skins, allowing the wine to absorb the resveratrol, whereas white wine is fermented after the skin has been removed. Wines produced from muscadine grapes, however, both red and white, contain more than 40 mg/L.
Experiments from the Harvard laboratory of David Sinclair several times in the journal Nature claimed resveratrol significantly extends the lifespan of the yeast, worms, fish and most recently mice. When given to mice, it countered some effects of a high-calorie diet, improving their health and increasing their life-span, the team reported. However, the chemical could not reverse all consequences of overeating - the mice did not lose any weight. Dr. Sinclair has founded Sirtris pharmaceuticals to commercialize resveratrol as an anti-aging drug.
Update by Karl Harrison
(Molecule of the Month for November 2006 )