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Study: Resveratrol works -- and at much lower doses than previously thought

New data indicates that a stunningly small amount of the compound--1,000 times less than suggested in earlier studies--can kick off the protective response.

The fountain of youth may indeed spout cabernet. And you might not have to glug gallons of it to feel the benefits. New research has uncovered how resveratrol, a compound in grapes and cacao beans, affects our cells.

Resveratrol’s been in the spotlight in recent years as studies have suggested it may prevent diabetes and extend the lifespan in mice as well as kicking up their stamina while they run on wheels. Scientists have disagreed, however, about exactly how the stuff activates cellular pathways. The dissonance has called into question some of the compound’s supposed powers, particularly given the unrealistically high doses used in some experiments, according to a release from The Scripps Research Institute, where scientists conducted the new study.

According to the new research, which appears in the journal Nature, resveratrol activates an ancient, evolutionary stress response that protects human cells, promoting youthfulness and longevity. And, the new data indicates that a stunningly small amount – 1,000 times less than suggested in earlier studies - can kick off the protective response.

The research suggests that resveratrol works by mimicking a molecule in the body called tyrosine that helps mitigate stress to DNA.

“This stress response represents a layer of biology that has been largely overlooked, and resveratrol turns out to activate it at much lower concentrations than those used in prior studies,” senior investigator Paul Schimmel, professor and member of the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at TSRI, said in the release.

“With these findings we have a new, fundamental mechanism for the known beneficial effects of resveratrol,” said lead author Mathew Sajish, a senior research associate in the Schimmel laboratory.

“Based on these results, it is conceivable that moderate consumption of a couple glasses of red wine would give a person enough resveratrol to evoke a protective effect via this pathway,” Sajish said.

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