Red grapes are one of the natural sources of resveratrol.
Looks like 60 Minutes and CBS have jumped on the anti-aging bandwagon. The piece is mostly about resveratrol, the famous compound found especially in red wine.
Resveratrol and its possible longevity benefits are nothing new of course, but it's good to see such a popular show feature it in a positive light. Here's a quote from the article, which is basically a transcription of the video:
Resveratrol has been tested on mice and the results have been encouraging. In a test-video provided by Sirtris, two mice were fed a high fat diet for 12 weeks. But when placed on a treadmill, one of the mice ran twice as far. He was given high concentrations of resveratrol.
"You have fat mice, and you have fat mice with resveratrol. And the ones that are on resveratrol, they can run twice as far, and they live longer, about 20 percent longer," Sinclair says.
Other studies showed that among mice fed a high fat diet, those taking resveratrol didn't gain as much weight as those not given the drug. Sinclair believes that resveratrol actually changes the physiology of the mice.
The proof, he says, is in the post-mortems. "Their organs looked pristine, youthful, fat-free, and their physiology was just like they were dieting. But they were fat."
As for effects on humans, Sinclair (who launched the biotech company Sirtris with Dr. Westphal) comments:
"We're talking about is potentially making a 90-year-old as healthy as a 60-year-old. A 90-year-old can play tennis, and see their great grandkids graduate from college. People will live active, healthy lives and then die quietly in their sleep. And that's really the aim here with these medicines."
I agree that this may be a first step in the right direction, but I hardly think dying in your sleep is the best possible end result. Instead, the short term goal is to develop drugs that keep us healthy until old age; the long term goal is to use those extra years to develop better and more effective drugs. The ultimate goal should be to not die at all.
Still, it's understandable that Sirtris is cautious about what kind of claims they make. Even though I'm fairly sure Dr. Sinclair and Dr. Westphal are mostly interested in the longevity benefits of resveratrol, their products are marketed as drugs against diseases like diabetes. It's much easier to get FDA approval for a diabetes drug than it is for a life extension drug, and now that GlaxoSmithKline bought Sirtris (for almost three quarters of a billion dollars), I'm sure they'll be even more careful about how they market their product.
No story on anti-aging would be complete without mentioning caloric restriction and a mandatory joke about CR practicers who "may not live longer, but it'll sure feel like it". That one just keeps getting funnier every time, doesn't it? But to 60 Minutes' credit, the CR Society's "low-calorie happy hour" featuring baby food and tomato juice doesn't exactly seem like the party of a lifetime.
So when is this stuff ready to be popped in pill form? Here's an estimate straight from the horse's mouth:
"I would say five years to be conservative that this'll happen within our lifetimes. I'm fairly certain about that," Sinclair says.
I'm not sure what exactly the folks at Sirtris are up to with their formulation, but resveratrol is and has been available for quite some time now from several manufacturers, even in highly concentrated forms. It's not cheap, but if you want to give it a go, it won't cost you an arm and a leg either.
For more information on anti-aging, see these posts:
Anti-Aging in the Media: Newsweek on the Search for Longer Life
End Aging to End Anxiety: Filmmaker Jason Silva Talks about Immortality
Growing New Body Parts: Breakthroughs in Regenerative Medicine
Drinking 10 Cups of Green Tea Daily and Not Smoking Could Add 12 Years to Your Life