In the latest installment of the story linking longevity and caloric restriction, David Sinclair and colleagues report that resveratrol appears to reverse the bad effects of a high fat diet in mice. What does this have to do with caloric restriction? It turns out that resveratrol acts through Sir2, a deacetylase which appears to mediate the life extending effects of caloric restriction in yeast, worms and flies.
The actual experiment involved three groups of mice: one was fed a normal mouse diet, and the other two placed on a high fat regimen (the rodent equivalent of junk food). One of these groups was also given resveratrol. Although these mice gained as much weight, they lived longer than the mice on junk food, and at death appeared to have none of the systemic effects a high fat diet should induce, like fatty livers and bad kidneys. In fact, they looked pretty much as if they had been kept on a normal feed.
The work suggests that activating this pathway (without the inconvenience of, literally, starving yourself to life) may help combat some detrimental effects of modern life. The catch is that you have to take this throughout your life – and dosing yourself with a chemical made by plants as an antifungal is not necessarily the wisest course of action. That said, it is now in serious clinical trials and has been classed as an Investigational New Drug by the US FDA.
There is undoubtedly some extremely interesting biology being unravelled here. Whether this winds up being a major breakthrough or a storm in a teacup remains to be seen. I will point out that abstraction from model organisms, especially unicellulars/invertebrates, to humans is a highly risky business: remember that we’re talking reaction to environment here, and that’s perhaps the most mutable quality between species.
And the red wine? Resveratrol is found in red grape skins, and therefore red wine. If all this pans out, it may help explain the French paradox.