Two of my favorite food groups: red wine and dark chocolate—and now I discover that both are among the healthiest foods one can eat. But hold on a minute. There’s a catch.
Scientists have found that it’s not the wine or the chocolate themselves that are beneficial. It’s a chemical within them called resveratrol. That’s the healthy part.
In animal studies, resveratrol has been shown to prevent both disease and aging. It’s been discussed as a fountain of youth. The problem is that you’d have to drink a river of red wine (about 100 bottles per day) or eat a football field of dark chocolate to experience life-changing health benefits.
As a clinical pharmacist, I’ve often said that we can live better through chemistry. And that mantra could be true in this case. Although we can’t drink enough red wine or eat enough dark chocolate to prevent disease or reverse the aging process, we can isolate the chemical, duplicate it in a lab and develop drugs that act like concentrated resveratrol. When scientists accomplish that, we could truly have a pharmaceutical fountain of youth!
The basis for that bold statement is that resveratrol stimulates specific proteins in our bodies. These proteins are called sirtuin proteins (or SIRT1 for short). They break down certain types of damaging proteins and instruct other proteins to repair and regenerate cells.
Over a decade ago, MIT biology professor Leonard Guarente conducted animal studies to understand the function of sirtuin proteins. He discovered that when mice were genetically altered to remove SIRT1 from their bodies, the mice developed metabolic diseases—like diabetes—and were more likely to develop inflammatory diseases and become obese. Conversely, when SIRT1 was present and SIRT1 was stimulated, older mice appeared to be much younger and healthier.
Additional studies conducted at MIT have determined that the SIRT1 present in the brain protects against the neurodegeneration that happens with Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Since stimulation of sirtiun proteins appear to reduce disease and the effects of aging (both mentally and physically) in mice, researchers are studying ways to produce a drug that acts like concentrated resveratrol. By stimulating sirtuin proteins with a pharmaceutical equivalent of pure resveratrol, scientists potentially could extend life spans by countering the effects of obesity, certain diseases and the onset of aging.
But are we ready to live better through chemistry with a pharmaceutical fountain of youth? Only time will tell as further studies are completed and the results unfold.
Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!
Justification, at long last!!!
I knew there was a reason why I liked them both! I love red wine. We just bought a wine cooler for our kitchen and I stocked it up with red wine. Thanks for sharing your knowledge, Jim!
Thanks, James and Diane. We should lobby for a new food group: Resveratrol Foods