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Live Longer - Pop a Pill or Go Lean!

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Author: Helen Kiperchuk

A daily ration of wine - one glass for women, two for men - is widely recommended because of the belief that a moderate and regular consumption of wine is beneficial. This belief was a result of studies which indicated that the French, despite a diet high in fat and consumption of wine had a low incidence of heart disease.

On January 25, 2009 CBS 60 Minutes revealed that scientists have now identified the substance in red wine that is believed to not only protect the heart, but also extend life by the prevention of age related diseases. Called resveratrol, it is found in high concentration in grape skins and appears to play a role in protecting the fruit from invading bacteria and fungi. Since red wine is brimming with resveratrol, it is believed that a healthy life could soon be prolonged by taking a pill of a highly concentrated amount of this substance, the equivalent of drinking about 1,000 bottles a day of red wine.

This will be the result of work done since 2003 by scientists Dr. Christoph Westphal and David Sinclair. They found that the sirtuin gene - a normally inactive gene present in most life forms - when active it triggers a survival mechanism that extends life and the compound that triggers the activity is called resveratrol.

Resveratrol was first isolated in 1940 from the roots of a perennial herb called hellebore. It is produced naturally by several plants - grapes, blueberries and peanuts - when under attack by pathogens such as bacteria or fungi. In 1963, it was isolated from the roots of a traditional Chinese and Japanese medicinal plant. Resveratrol has also been produced by chemical synthesis and is sold as a nutritional supplement derived primarily from Japanese knotweed. In mouse and rat experiments, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, blood-sugar-lowering, and other beneficial cardiovascular effects of resveratrol have been reported. Most of these results have yet to be replicated in humans.

The possibility of a prescription pill based on red wine that could trigger a longevity gene may sound too good to be true, yet scientists have actually known for years of one way of doing that - staying hungry. Your body can create it under the right conditions. "Eating a lot of food turns that [sirtuin gene] off. Dieting.... turns it on," Sinclair said.

In an experiment at the University of Wisconsin, for almost two decades a group of rhesus monkeys were fed 30 percent fewer calories than their well-fed brothers and sisters. The skinny monkeys actually look younger, their coats are shinier, and fewer have arthritis. The well-fed monkeys have diabetes, and a significantly higher number have cancer and heart disease. It's believed that less food turns on these monkeys' genetic survival switch and that a hungry life leads to a longer life.

60 Minutes also introduced members of CRS - the Calorie Restriction Society - a group that has been severely restricting their calories for years now as part of a Washington University study to see if humans "mimic" the monkeys. The goal of Calorie Restriction is to achieve a longer and healthier life by eating fewer calories - reduced by as much as 10 to 30% - while consuming adequate vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients to maintain good health. Crash diets are discouraged. Does self-denial make them live longer, healthier lives? So far the participants have lowered their blood pressure, reduced body fat, and lessened risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and even cancer. They believe through experience that hunger turns on the survival gene.

In the meantime, keeping in mind that a large percentage of drugs that work on mice fail in human trials, lowering caloric intake may be your best option for a longer life.

Helen Kiperchuk is a freelance writer commissioned by Alternative Health Practitioners: who offer Reiki Treatment and Classes, as well as Wholesale Herbal Medicine Manufacturers and Retailers of Herbal TCM Formulas


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