Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Don't lose your SIRT: resveratrol and the promise of lifespan extension

We are closing in on the list of 101 healthy reasons to drink wine, and my book "Age Gets Better with Wine" will be on bookshelves soon. (You can pre-order it at any of the major retailers now.) So we turn now to one of the most exciting aspects of wine, one which has opened a new frontier in anti-aging research. Resveratrol from red wine was identified a few years ago as the only significant natural activator of a family of enzymes called sirtuins, coded by the SIRT gene (hence the name). A long list of specific benefits are being discovered for sirtuins, beyond what resveratrol and other polyphenols do independently, and we will list only a few of them here.
96. It has been known for many years that caloric restriction - reducing an organism's caloric intake by around 40% of what it would normally consume - will extend its life by a similar percentage. Sirtuins were found to be the key to this effect, and when researchers discovered that by feeding the subject resveratrol the effect could be replicated without caolric restriction it made headline news worldwide. So far this has only been demonstrated in fairly primirive creatures, however, and it remains to be seen whether it works in people.
97. Sirtuins are responsible for maintaining metabolic balance. Activation of sirtuins by resveratrol may be one of the ways by which wine drinkers tend to be healthier overall.
98. As a separate but related phenomenon, sirtuins appear to mitigate the diseases of insulin resistance (the most recognizable being type 2 diabetes.) This is in addition to the independent effects of wine polyphenols on diabetes.
99. The growth of new blood vessels is called angiogenesis, and it is important to maintain the vitality of muscles and other organs that are in constant metabolic use. Failure of angiogenesis is one of the ways the heart muscle weakens with aging, and sirtuins appear to promote heart health by facilitating new channels of blood supply. Anything we can do to encourage this is obviously beneficial.

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