Wine Extract Keeps Fat Mice Healthy

The Associated Press
Thursday, November 2, 2006; 8:23 AM

WASHINGTON -- Obese mice on a high-fat diet got the benefits of being thin _ living healthier, longer lives _ without the pain of dieting when they consumed huge doses of red wine extract, according to a landmark new study.

It's far too early to know if this would work in people, scientists said. But several were excited by the findings, calling it promising and even "spectacular."

The study by the Harvard Medical School and the National Institute on Aging shows that heavy doses of the red wine ingredient, resveratrol, lowers the rate of diabetes, liver problems and other fat-related ill effects in obese mice.

Fat-related deaths dropped 31 percent for obese mice on the supplement, compared to fat mice that got no treatment. The mice that got the wine extract also lived longer than expected, the study showed.

And astoundingly, the organs of the treated fat mice looked normal when they shouldn't have, said study lead author Dr. David Sinclair of Harvard Medical School.

"They're chubby but inside they look great," Sinclair said Wednesday afternoon. "You have to pinch yourself to make sure that this is all real, but the study involved 27 different researchers each of whom had a Eureka moment."

Sinclair said other preliminary work still under way shows the wine ingredient has promise in extending the lives of normal-sized mice, too.

Sinclair has a financial stake in the research. He is co-founder of a pharmaceutical firm, Sirtris Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., which is testing to see if the extract can safely be used to treat people with diabetes.

For years, red wine has been linked to numerous health benefits. But the new study, published online in the journal Nature on Thursday, shows that mammals given ultrahigh doses of resveratrol can get the good effects of cutting calories without actually doing it.

"If we're right about this, it would mean you could have the benefit of restricting calories without having to feel hungry," Sinclair said. "It's the Holy Grail of aging research."

Even though he called the work "tantalizing," Dr. Howard Eisenson, director of the Duke University Diet and Fitness Center urged people not to get too excited.

"All of us who practice medicine have learned that we can't leap from studies in the lab _ particularly in lab animals _ to what will happen in humans," Eisenson said.

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