Red wine compound seen protecting heart from aging

Updated: 2008-06-04 15:59

A waiter serves a glass of red wine from Spain during a tasting session at Vinexpo Asia-Pacific, the International Wine and Spirits Exhibition for the Asia-Pacific region, in Hong Kong May 28, 2008.[Agencies]

A natural compound found in red wine may protect the heart against the effects of the aging process, researchers said on Tuesday.

In their study, mice were given a diet supplemented with the compound known as resveratrol starting at their equivalent of middle age until old age.

These mice experienced changes in their gene activity related to aging in a way very similar to mice that were placed on a so-called calorie restriction diet that slows the aging process by greatly cutting dietary energy intake.

Most striking was how the resveratrol, like calorie restriction, blocked the decline in heart function typically associated with aging, according to Tomas Prolla, a University of Wisconsin professor of genetics who helped lead the study.

Much as Spaniard Juan Ponce de Leon once searched for the mythical fountain of youth, researchers now are seeking ways to extend the quality and length of human life.

In some studies, animals given a diet with greatly reduced caloric intake have lived longer than animals with normal diets. But perpetual hunger is a steep price to pay for greater longevity, some researchers say.

Resveratrol, found in abundance in grapes and in red wine, has drawn a lot of interest from scientists and some companies, including GlaxoSmithKline, which in April said it would pay $720 million to buy Sirtris Pharmaceuticals Inc, a company that is developing drugs that mimic the effects of resveratrol.

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