Red wine is a rich source of an antioxidant called resveratrol. Over the past decade, there has been a great deal of research into the benefits of this compound, and results have consistently suggested that resveratrol is beneficial against numerous degenerative conditions. Most recently, a genetics professor at Harvard Medical School, David Sinclair sought to better understand resveratrol’s therapeutic mechanism.
Over the past several years, Sinclair, along with his colleague Leonard Guarente at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have published numerous papers demonstrating how resveratrol improves energy production and overall health in cells by activating a class of genes called sirtuins that are essential to mitochondrial function. The cell’s power supplier, mitochondria are essential not just for longevity but for overall health.
In his most recent study*, which was recently published in the journal Cell Metabolism, Sinclair sought to prove resveratrol’s action in a mouse model (mice are the most biologically similar to humans in the laboratory setting). In the past, he was able to demonstrate that in yeast, worms and flies, when the sirtuin gene is completely eliminated, cells do not respond to resveratrol. But mice, unfortunately, die at birth without sirtuin gene. To overcome this obstacle, Sinclair and his colleagues spent several years engineering mice who would survive without the sirtuin gene.
The results were quite clear! When mice were given low doses of resveratrol after the sirtuin gene (SIRT1) was disabled, the researchers found no discernible improvement in mitochondrial function. In contrast, the mice with normal SIRT1 function given resveratrol showed dramatic increases in energy.
While some scientists are skeptical about the resveratrol/sirtuin/mitochondria (and therefore health and longevity) connection, Sinclair believes that this study demonstrates the connection as clearly as is possible.
Resveratrol is abundant in red wine and in fruits such as grapes and açai. It is also available in health food stores as a nutritional supplement.