Resveratrol and longevity PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Karel Nunnink   

Resveratrol Offsets Perils of a High-Calorie Diet
Remarkable new research suggests that it may be possible to achieve the life-extending benefits of caloric restriction using the readily available, plant-derived compound known as resveratrol. Resveratrol and caloric restriction appear to work via similar mechanisms to promote health and longevity in numerous animal species.
In an interview, a leading resveratrol researcher, Dr. Xi Zhao-Wilson of BioMarker Pharmaceuticals, told Life Extension, “There has been a great deal of attention focused on resveratrol in the past few years, following a study showing that resveratrol activates molecular pathways involved in life-span extension, now demonstrated in yeast, worms, flies, fish, and mice, and which possibly bear a relationship to mechanisms under-lying caloric restriction.”
This heightened interest in resveratrol has produced several recent breakthroughs. In a landmark study, Harvard University scientists showed that resveratrol could prolong survival by regulating a gene associated with aging that is present in all life forms.5 They demonstrated that while middle-aged mice fed a high-calorie diet suffered the ravages of obesity—including metabolic changes resembling diabetes, liver and heart damage, and premature death—mice that were fed resveratrol in addition to the high-calorie diet actually exhibited beneficial changes in their physiology, resembling those of mice fed a standard diet.
Among the life-prolonging benefits of resveratrol supplementation demonstrated in the study were:
increased insulin sensitivity
lower blood sugar
enhanced mitochondrial energy production
improved motor function.
While mice on the non-supplemented high-calorie diet developed enlarged, fatty livers, resveratrol supplementation prevented these changes. Similarly, heart disease and evidence of atherosclerosis were seen in mice fed the high-calorie diet, but not in those that were also given resveratrol. Resveratrol significantly increased survival, reducing the risk of death from the high-calorie diet by 31%. Together, these findings offer powerful evidence that resveratrol protected the animals from the harmful effects of a high-calorie diet.5
Resveratrol’s positive impacts on insulin sensitivity and survival were apparent after only six months of treatment.5 Resveratrol also improved the animals’ quality of life, as reflected in their physical abilities. On a test of balance and coordination, the resveratrol-fed mice on the high-calorie diet steadily improved as they aged.5 The obese resveratrol-supplemented animals experienced all of these benefits without a significant reduction in body weight.5
“These data demonstrate that resveratrol can alleviate the negative impact of a high-calorie diet on overall health and life span,” the Harvard scientists concluded. “The ability of resveratrol to prevent the deleterious effects of excess caloric intake and modulate known longevity pathways suggests that resveratrol and molecules with similar properties might be valuable tools in the search for key regulators of energy balance, health, and longevity.”5
Mechanisms by Which Resveratrol May Extend Life
Today, scientists around the world are studying resveratrol to determine how it helps fight aging and prolong life span. Current evidence suggests that resveratrol exerts antioxidant effects, boosts energy production, and favorably alters patterns of gene expression.
Oxidative stress is implicated in numerous disease processes and in aging itself. Resveratrol demonstrates powerful antioxidant capabilities, with profound implications for human health. Scientists report that resveratrol inhibits the oxidation of dangerous low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and scavenges harmful hydroxyl radicals. Resveratrol also helps preserve levels of glutathione, one of the body’s most essential antioxidants.6 According to prominent resveratrol investigator Dr. Milos Sovak, “There is no question that resveratrol is one of the best free-radical scavengers and that it has many effects whose ramifications might affect not only longevity but also general health.”
Resveratrol stimulates energy production in the cellular powerhouses known as the mitochondria. Diminished mitochondrial energy production is associated with reduced longevity. By enhancing the production of life-sustaining energy, resveratrol may help protect against metabolic disease and obesity, thereby improving health and prolonging survival in animals.7
Growing evidence indicates that resveratrol influences many genetic pathways, which may underlie its ability to lengthen life. In the recent Harvard study, investigators noted that a high-calorie diet produced numerous changes in gene expression. However, supplemental resveratrol opposed the effects of this high-calorie diet in 144 of 153 significantly altered genetic pathways. Moreover, resveratrol’s effects were dose dependent, with larger amounts yielding greater effects, leading the investigators to suggest that resvera-trol may offer “new approaches for treating obesity-related disorders and diseases of aging.”7
Some of the genetic pathways influenced by resveratrol are similarly affected by caloric restriction. For example, caloric restriction is associated with long-term activation of AMP-activated kinase (AMPK), a metabolic enzyme promoting insulin sensitivity and fatty-acid oxidation. Resveratrol likewise increases AMPK activity, which is associated with life-span extension.5
Scientists believe that caloric restriction increases life span in part through its effects on the sirtuin genes.5 Present in all life forms, sirtuin genes are associated with aging and longevity. Resveratrol may confer benefits similar to those of caloric restriction by influencing the sirtuin gene known as SIRT2.5,8-10 In the Harvard study, resveratrol helped counteract changes in SIRT2 expression induced by a high-calorie diet.
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