A red wine ingredient could be the key to extending human life to the age of 150, according to a new paper published in Science today by a team headed by Australian researcher David Sinclair. After studying 117 drugs under development to fight the diseases of aging, they concluded that they all target a single enzyme called SIRT1 — providing new focus for an attack on diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, and other illnesses associated with growing older.
Three natural ways to switch on the enzyme and slow down aging are calorie restriction, exercise, and drinking red wine, which includes trace amounts of a powerful anti-oxidant called resveratrol. Calorie restriction — better known as dieting or fasting — doesn’t work very well for most people. Junk food is everywhere, and other scientists think it may represent a true addiction that many people simply can’t resist. Exercise takes time and energy that many busy people simply don’t have.
That leaves red wine and the almost magical resveratrol if you’re seeking a natural way to turn on the anti-aging enzyme. The exuberant Dr. Sinclair has long been a believer in the anti-oxidant, and he even appeared on 60 Minutes in 2009 to extol its benefits.
What’s new in today’s paper is that he has revealed that his lab has developed about 4,000 synthetic activators for pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline. These activators are about 100 times as powerful as the natural ingredient in red wine. The top three activators are currently in human trials, and he predicted that there will be a drug based on one of the activators available to fight type 2 diabetes in five years. He also predicted that these drugs will ultimately allow humans to live up to age 150.
But are the claims a little too strong?
The exuberant Dr. Sinclair, who is based at Harvard Medical School, told the Australian News in a telephone interview that, “My research has been criticised because it sounds too good to be true. This paper shows it is true.”
While we’re waiting to see if he’s right, we can always enjoy a glass of red wine with dinner.
[photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]