I’ve been drinking red wine lately cause it makes me feel healthy, though deep in my heart I know the connection is bumpkis. According to the Times article, you’d have to drink 750 bottles per day to see a real benefit. In effect, drinking red wine has only moderate benefits and still gives you hangovers the next day. In refined pill doses, however, the red wine substance resveratrol seems to have great promise for both extending life and quality of life. Not only are mice on the pills better able to deal with fatty foods liver and heart wise, they also have more energy and muscle. Of course, this wonder drug isn’t be prescribed to humans in those quantities (though the authors of the study do take it). Regardless, it seems quite promising.
From a recent Slate blurb by William Saletan:
Resveratrol doubles endurance in mice. This is the same stuff that neutralized the bad consequences of fatty food in a recent mouse study (extending the lives of fat-eating mice by 15 percent). In the new study, resveratrol-fed mice built more energy capacity and athletic muscle, burned more fat, and lowered their weight and their heart rates. Genetic evidence suggests this or related drugs might similarly help humans. One company says demand for its resveratrol pills has multiplied by 2,400 in the two weeks since the previous resveratrol study came out. Skeptics’ warnings: 1) We don’t know whether this will work in humans. 2) To get a dosage equivalent to what the mice got, you’d need way more resveratrol than you could get from today’s pills, much less from red wine. 3) We don’t know whether such a dosage is safe in humans. 4) If it works, athletes may use it to cheat. Researchers’ rejoinders: 1) Of course they’ll use it, and we’re using it already, since it “makes you look like a trained athlete without the training.” 2) “This is the first example of a drug that can apparently affect the whole aging process.” 3) If it’s unsafe or ineffective in humans, we know how to find similar drugs that will work for us. (For the most recent update on resveratrol, click here)
This study came out at the same time as one on low-calorie diets, which have been known to extend life since 1935. In fact we learned it as a basic fact in a Biopsychology. So, contrary to every Sri Lankan mother’s advice, you don’t need another serving. In fact, calorie restriction is one of the most robust ways to live longer and avoid degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. However, it also sucks.
Graphic from NYTimes. Full Size
The monkey on the left may look healthier, but he has not had the pleasure of, errrr, food pellets. For humans it’s much worse – the equivalent human diet is all soybeans and vegetables. Or should I say, only soybeans and vegetables. No (or very little) starch as far as I can see. There is, however, the French paradox, wherein those people eat a much richer diet (bread, butter, fat) and still have lower heart disease than Americans or Brits. The thinking is that their habitual consumption of red wine may hold a clue, and the studies on resveratrol may back this.
Drinking red wine alone won’t do the trick (though it doesn’t hurt), but an intake of this pill in some form may enable people to have their Cheese Roti and eat it to. In the mouse study they were able to eat a fatty diety without the consequences (heart disease, diabetes). They did however, get fat. Mice on a normal diet were healthier all around. Getting the studies and clinical approval to approve this sort of preventive treatment will take years, and for all we know it could make your head explode. It is, however, hopeful news for a populace that seems to get sicker as it gets wealthier and better fed.