Resveratrol, The secret ingredient of extended life!
Resveratrol is an antioxidant found in the skin of red grapes and new research has recently linked it to a possible extended life. Watch the video below from 60 minutes to find out more about what some scientists believe could be the breakthrough of the century!
Host Morley Safer: 17 years ago 60 minutes researched into the “French paradox” which suggested that the French, despite a high fat diet and high consumption of wine, had remarkably low incidence of heart disease compared with Americans. Most researchers agree that there was something in the wine that offered protection. A few years later even the cautious federal dietary guidelines say that moderate consumption of red wine can be beneficial. Now scientists across the country have identified a substance in Red Wine called Resveratrol that they believe may do more then just protect the heart but could, in very high concentrations, significantly extend life; by preventing a number of age related illnesses. If they are right, we may all soon be taking a pill that could give us an extra decade or two of healthy old age.
Dr. Christoph Westphal: If the promise holds true, I think this has the chance to change health care.
Host Morley Safer: Dr. Christoph Westphal says that we all may be soon taking a drug that just might beat the clock. A simple pill that could delay the inevitable.
Dr. Christoph Westphal: Our goal is to prevent and stall many of the diseases that strike us at 50, 60 and 70 all with one health supplement.
Host Morley Safer: So what your suggesting is that there’s some sort of rejuvenation drug that turns a 70 year old into a 35 year old.
Dr. Christoph Westphal, that might be pretty hard to do but I think that if we are on a train heading one direction we can slow down that train. I think we can slow down these genes that control the aging process.
Host Morley Safer: That quest to put death on hold began in 2003 when Westphal met David Sinclair, a Bio-Chemist at Harvard who was studying the genetic components of aging.
Dr. Christoph Westphal: 5 years ago I met David and he had shown that you could extend lifespan in Yeast. That’s pretty exciting you know.
Host Morley Safer: Yeah if you’re yeast it’s exciting. Yeast is one thing, Human beings are more complicated, so Sinclair focused on a gene found in almost all life forms. The gene is normally in-active, but when it is active, Sinclair believes that it triggers a survival mechanism that extends life. Convinced that something in nature could activate that gene, Sinclair randomly tested thousands of compounds and BINGO he got a hit!
David Sinclair: When I Goggled this Resveratrol, I was shocked to find that Red Wine was the top hit.
Host Morley Safer: Red Wine is brimming with Resveratrol. Its found in high concentration in the skin of the grape. It seems to play a role in protecting it, aiding bacteria and fungi.
Host Morley Safer asks Sinclair: Were you aware of the research into Red Wine and that it offered certain health benefits?
David Sinclair: Well sure, that’s why I almost fell off my chair when the link was made and I thought that this was a potential explanation for the benefits of Red Wine.
Host Morley Safer: Convinced they were on the verge of a major scientific breakthrough, Sinclair and Dr. Christoph Westphal launched Sirtris, a Cambridge Massachusetts research company. They, along with a number of cutting edge Bio-Tech companies, are now developing Resveratrol based drugs that they believe ” zero in on the longevity gene.”
David Sinclair: The important news here is not that we found something in Red Wine. The important thing is that we have passed a milestone now, where we can now make drugs based on this knowledge AND potentially slow down aging itself.
Host Morley Safer: Everyone from Plastic Surgeons to your friendly snake oil salesman have been promising a ticket to eternal youth for sometime. So the prospect of a prescription pill, based on Red Wine, that could trigger a longevity gene, sounds to good to be true and yet scientists have actually known for years one sure fire way of doing that.
David Sinclair: Eating a lot of food turns that off, Dieting and extreme dieting turns it on.
Host Morley Safer: These reeses monkeys are on a major diet. For nearly 2 decades now they’ve been taking in a good 30% fewer calories then their well fed brothers and sisters. They are the center piece in a national health study, at the University of Wisconsin into whether or not CR (Calorie Restriction) makes them healthier and extends there lives. I dressed up in a coat for this sterile environment and visited them with Vikki Coleman, the project leader.
Viki: These are two of our Calorie control (CR) animals here.
Host Morley Safer: They are nearing the end of a typical monkey lifespan (about 27 Years) and overall differences in their overall health are becoming clear.
The difference is really obvious. The skinny monkeys actually look younger, their coats are shinier and fewer have arthritis. However those chunky monkeys, many of them have diabetes and a significantly high number of cancer and heart disease.
It’s obvious that the lighter guys do better. Dr Richard Widebrook, who heads up the study, believes that calorie restriction turns on these monkeys genetic survival switch. A hungry life seems to lead to a longer life!
Dr. Christoph Westphal: There is an emerging survival advantage for the monkeys on calorie restriction. 50% of the normally fed animals have died and only maybe 25% of those on calorie restriction.
Host Morley Safer: That’s a pretty remarkable number! Surely these are strong indications that restricting calorie intake among humans would be extremely beneficial?
Dr Richard Widebrook: It appears to support that Idea.
Host Morley Safer: But our records, as humans of staying on diets, is pretty miserable.
Dr Richard Widebrook: And Worsening!
Host Morley Safer: So it’s a fat chance that we will all be giving up our passion for greasy junk! We consume tons more calories then we need. But believe it or not, there are some Americans that just revel in their hunger. Meet the skinny members of the CRS The “Calorie Restriction Society”. A group that’s been severely restricting their calories for years now. The are also part of a University of Washington study, to see if humans mimic the monkeys. Does this kind of self denial make them live longer happier lives? We join them for what they call happy hour. Though you might regard it as an unhappy hour?
So far, the participants have lowered their blood pressure, reduced their body fat and lessened the risk of diabetes, heart failure and even cancer. And what’s more? To one husband anyway, starvation has it’s sexy side. Their adversaries travel the world, spreading the faith and the word, Hunger turns on the survival gene!
The skinny might not die young BUT, given their diet, they just may die of boredom! But if the scientists are on the right track, it could mean forget dieting, Forget the sweaty business of working out, Just pop a pill and you are in “No dieting couch potato paradise.!”
Dr. Christoph Westphal: We have a pill that can mimic many of the effects of calorie control or exercise.
Host Morley Safer: So someone could be very healthy and obese at the same time?
Dr. Christoph Westphal: Our goal as healthy individuals should ideally be a healthy lifestyle and if that doesn’t work, we believe we have a pill that can mimic that.
Host Morley Safer: A health supplement that in effect diets for you. A health product that turns on the survival gene.
David Sinclair: What we are trying to do with our drugs here is to put the body in a defensive state, to ring the alarm bells and get the body to defend itself, so instead of dieting to set the alarm off, simply pop a pill.
Host Morley Safer: The supplement is a highly concentrated form of Resveratrol, a virtual “vineyard of good living”
Host Morley Safer asks Sinclair: How much wine would you have to drink to get the kind of Resveratrol that your using?
David Sinclair: The sad news is that you would need to drink about 1000 bottles of Red Wine a day of wine, which I don’t recommend.
Host Morley Safer: The health supplement itself may not extend lifespan but could prevent the diseases of aging – Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart disease and even cancer.
David Sinclair: What were talking about is activating the body’s natural genetic defences and that’s very powerful if we can harness it.
Host Morley Safer: Resveratrol has been tested on mice and the results have been encouraging. In this test video provided by Sirtris, both of the mice had been fed a high fat diet for 12 weeks. When placed on a treadmill, the mouse on the right ran twice as far. He was taking high concentrations of Resveratrol. You have fat mice and you have fat mice with Resveratrol and with the ones that are on Resveratrol, they can run twice as far AND they live longer – about 20% longer.
Host Morley Safer: Other studies showed that among mice fed a high fat diet, those given Resveratrol, did not gain as much weight as those who were given the drug. Sinclair believes that Resveratrol actually changes the physiology of the Mice. The proof he says, is in the post mortem.
David Sinclair: Their organs looked pristine! Youthful, fat free and their physiology was just like they were dieting but they were fat.
Host Morley Safer: Convinced they were on the right path, they fast tracked the drug into human trials; on people with untreated Diabetes – And the results were impressive! Resveratrol significantly lowered glucose and insulin levels without the patients changing their diet or taking any other drug.
Dr. Christoph Westphal: Originally, our hope was that you would be able to prevent signs of aging. But what we ended up seeing is that you could actually therapeutically intervene with patients who have diseases of aging and that was unexpected.
David Sinclair: Yes, the diabetic patients have high blood sugar and the molecules bring it down. That’s treatment! That’s not prevention.
Host Morley Safer: Sirtris is now developing what they say is a much more potent synthetic version of Resveratrol that will also soon go into human trials. This time on Cancer patients.
Dr. Christoph Westphal: I keep on thinking, You know what used to be thought as science fiction, I actually think biology is right and if that’s right this might be the biggest thing we are going to do in our lives.
Host Morley Safer: Possibly but it is important to remember that 9 out of 10 drugs that look good in mice ultimately fail in human trials. Still the speed and results generated by Sirtris Pharmaceuticals and the Resveratrol drugs are unusual. Sinclair believes that these drugs will not only keep people living longer but will keep them healthy longer.
David Sinclair: What we are potentially talking about, is possibly making a 90 year old as healthy as a 60 year old. A 60 year old can play tennis and see their great grandchildren 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.
Host Morley Safer: Are we on the edge of maintaining active lives on into our 100s for example?
David Sinclair: Well we’ve certainly passed a corner in terms of the science and someones going to achieve it. If its not us it is going to be someone else!
Host Morley Safer: But the question that most of us want answered is when do we get this health supplement?
David Sinclair: I would say 5 years to be conservative, this will happen within our lifetimes and I’m fairly certain about that.
Host Morley Safer: One measure of the potential of this research is Doctor Sinclair and Doctor Westphals little start-up company was recently bought by the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline for almost 3 quarters of a Billion Dollars!