Resveratrol first captured the attention of the world’s scientific community (and the general public!) in 2003 when experiments conducted by Dr. David Sinclair at Harvard appeared in the prestigious journal, Nature. Sinclair’s pioneering research demonstrated the life extending benefits of Resveratrol in mice, the first experiments performed on mammals.
But the story really dates back to the 1930s when scientists at Cornell University discovered the life-extending effects of calorie restriction, or CR. In animal tests they found that cutting calorie intake by about a third extended life span by 30 percent or more. The animals on the diet remained healthier, longer. It is believed that calorie restriction has the same effect on the human body.
Many researchers believe that Resveratrol is primarily responsible for what’s called “The French Paradox”: the observation that the people of France, in general, enjoy good cardiovascular health even though their diet is high in fat. A 2003 study at Harvard University found that resveratrol mimics the effects of caloric restriction in yeast cells, boosting their life spans by as much as 70%.3 The following year the researchers went on to demonstrate that resveratrol slows aging in two standard laboratory animals, roundworms and fruit flies.4 That made resveratrol the first compound to show anti-aging effects in widely divergent species. Then in 2006, scientists in Pisa, Italy, showed that resveratrol’s magic could be applied to more advanced animals— large doses of resveratrol extended the life span by more than 50% in a species of fish, Nothobranchius furzeri, which typically lives just nine weeks.
In a study published in 2006 in the journal Cell, researchers in France found that resveratrol protects mice against diet-induced insulin resistance and obesity.6 Furthermore, mice given the resveratrol supplement demonstrated improved endurance levels during exercise. The researchers also studied the cell-signaling pathway in the mitochondria of these mice. Mitochondria are the power plants of cells, which are responsible for intracellular energy production. Resveratrol activated a protein in the sirtuin family (SIRT1), which then stimulated the activity of another protein involved in mitochondrial function. Other recent studies, including one conducted at the Joslin Diabetes Center, have found another member of the sirtuin family of cellular proteins that may play a major role in how fat is produced and stored, offering a new target for treatments to prevent obesity and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. The French researchers surmised that resveratrol helped control weight gain by enhancing energy expenditure.