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Beyond just red wine's power, it was a good year for longevity studies

Article-Beyond just red wine's power, it was a good year for longevity studies

Key iconKey Points

  • Sirtuins, or cellular enzymes, may play a vital role in how living cells respond to stress - one of the responses being the extension of lifespan.
  • Resveratrol, an ingredient in red wine found to lower risk of heart disease, is a compound that has boosted sirtuin most effectively.

As the population ages and, in growing numbers, seeks treatment modalities to address the issues of aging, many of those modalities are getting smaller — in some instances, right down to the molecular level. Case in point: sirtuins. More and more anti-aging study findings strengthen an increasingly popular notion among many scientists that the cellular enzymes at the core of their experiments, called sirtuins, are universal regulators of aging in virtually all living organisms and thus represent a prime target for development of new anti-aging drugs.

Dr. McDaniel
To date, of many compounds being tested, one that has boosted sirtuin most effectively is resveratrol, an ingredient in red wine that has also been credited with that beverage's ability to lower the risk of heart disease. Additional research seems to indicate that resveratrol may also mimic the effect of a very low-calorie diet — the one intervention known with certainty to increase longevity in laboratory animals. Since the amount of resveratrol found naturally in red wine is too low to activate sirtuin, researchers are tinkering with resveratrol's chemical structure both to stabilize it and to amp up its sirtuin activation power.


Researchers have long evaluated the effects of calorie restriction on the affects of aging, according to David H. McDaniel, M.D., F.A.A.D., Virginia Beach, Va., director, Institute of Anti-Aging Research, co-director, Hampton University Skin of Color Research Institute, professor in the School of Science, Hampton University and assistant professor of clinical dermatology and Plastic Surgery, Eastern Virginia Medical School.

Dr. McDaniel tells Cosmetic Surgery Times that sirtuins play a vital role in how living cells respond to stress — one of these responses being the extension of lifespan.

Dr. Dipp
"However," he notes, "The implications and importance of these genes reaches far beyond simple lifespan extension. These genes play key roles in the regulation and control of cellular processes such as fat metabolism and insulin, inflammation, DNA repair, cell energy and other critical factors in the life, health and aging of cells. Basically, sirtuins promote the health and longevity of cells and the entire organism."

Dr. McDaniel explains that sirtuins appear to control many of the same metabolic and biological pathways as caloric restriction — which research has shown extends lifespan. "The importance of the hormonal activity produced by fat is underappreciated by most of the lay public and by many physicians who traditionally have thought of fat merely as [having] an 'energy storage' role."

However, the practicality — and safety — of a long-term or lifetime calorie-restricted diet is unproven in humans, so achieving the same benefits in a more tenable manner would be a coup. "On a practical basis," Dr. McDaniel says, "The ability to ingest a pill which will mimic the effects of caloric restriction without the radical diet utilized in these research studies is the goal and probably an achievable one at some level. Right now, the optimal dose of resveratrol and how to stabilize it is not really known with certainty but is being very actively investigated. New forms of resveratrol are also in clinical trials."

Findings in animal models continue to shed light on how resveratrol impacts aging. Study results published in the August 6, 2008, issue of Cell Metabolism, revealed that resveratrol slowed age-related decline of young mice on a standard diet. The research, supported in part by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, confirmed previous studies indicating that resveratrol may mimic, in mice, some of the effects of caloric restriction.

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