Research again boosts red wine as health drink

Chalk up one more health claim for red wine. And, one more plus for reservatrol.

While that may sound like the name of a medicine, reservatrol actually is a component of red wine that researchers now say may contribute to extending the human lifespan.

The study is, of course, based on giving reservatrol to mice, but there are some scientists who like the prospects so much they have begun taking it in capsule form.

The latest speculation on reservatrol's efficacy revolves around a company called Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, founded in Cambridge, MA, in 2004 and just sold to pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline for $720 million, certainly a vote of confidence in its work.

Sirtris is working on development of drugs that activate protein agents known in people as sirtuins. It reported in April that its formulation of resveratrol, called SRT501, reduced glucose levels in patients with diabetes.

Simply put, the theory behind the research is that of a human biological survival mechanism that, when faced with starvation, switches the body’s resources from fertility to tissue maintenance, thus cutting down on the degenerative diseases of aging -- what researchers usually refer to as the "period of morbidity."

A number of researchers have been studying the phenomenon and reservatrol's role in it for 20 years or so. One of the most promising results was announced last year by Dr. John Auwerx of the Institute of Genetics and Molecular and Cellular Biology in Illkirch, France. He said his experiments enhanced lab mice into stronger versions of themselves, able to run twice as far on a treadmill before collapsing.

Sirtris plans to start clinical trials of its resveratrol mimic soon. Sirtris’s value to GlaxoSmithKline is presumably that its sirtuin-activating drugs could be used to treat a wide range of common degenerative diseases such as cancers and Alzheimer’s if its underlying theory is correct.

A University of Wisconsin research team this week reported in the journal PLoS One that reservatrol may be effective in mice and people using much lower doses than previously thought necessary.

The Wisconsin scientists said because red wine also contains a number of compounds similar to reservatrol, a 4- to 5-ounce glasses of wine may be close enough to the amount of resveratrol they found to be effective.

Until all the results are in and proven conclusive, it certainly won't hurt the average person to begin a daily regimen of one glass of red wine per day for health reasons. Heaven knows, I'm years ahead of schedule and feeling just fine.

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