Log In / Join Now

Red-Wine Compound Makes Basic Organisms Live Longer, Study Finds

A new investigation into longevity reveals that adding resveratrol to the diets of earthworms and fruit flies increases their life spans

Jacob Gaffney
Posted: July 23, 2004

A team of American scientists has successfully increased the life span of fruit flies and earthworms by adding resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, to their diets. The group hopes their research into longevity could eventually turn up a way to prolong human life and good health, though such a development is far off in the future, they cautioned.

Their recent work, published in the July 8 issue of Nature, shows that resveratrol significantly extended the lives of fruit flies and worms compared with those that were not fed the compound. The researchers also noted that the flies, but not the worms, showed higher levels of reproduction when exposed to resveratrol.

Last year, study coauthor David Sinclair, from Harvard Medical School, found that resveratrol can extend the life span of yeast by 70 percent on average. This time, he and a team of scientists from Harvard, the University of Connecticut Health Center and Brown University looked at whether the compound can alter the longevity of multicellular organisms.

"We found this chemical that can extend the life span of every organism we give it to," Sinclair said. "If you give these compounds to these animals, they are healthier and longer-lived and just as active."

Resveratrol is found abundantly in grapes, certain nuts and berries and even some types of wheat. Recent studies have shown that the compound may help reduce the growth of skin melanomas, kill breast cancer cells, lower cholesterol levels and improve cardiovascular health.

Sinclair's team decided to experiment on fruit flies and worms because the animals "can be genetically engineered easily and have short life spans," he said.

The researchers placed adult worms onto two separate plates, five to a plate, and the fruit flies into two separate 1-liter jars, with 75 males and 75 females in each jar. For one group, both species were fed normally; in the other group, resveratrol was added to their diets in small amounts, 100 micromolars (a measure of a substance's concentration in a solution) every two days. Every day, the scientists checked for dead worms and dead flies, and counted and removed them from the groups.

The team observed that the worms with the resveratrol-supplemented diet lived an average of 14 percent to 24 percent longer than those with a regular diet. The flies with resveratrol in their diets lived up to 29 percent longer than the flies that didn't feed on the compound. The scientists repeated the experiment several times, with similar results.

The researchers also noted that the flies on resveratrol "were laying significantly more eggs than control-fed females." The hermaphroditic worms reproduced at a constant rate regardless of their diet.

In Sinclair's previous study on yeast cells, his team theorized that resveratrol may activate a group of enzymes, called sirtuins, that may control aging to a degree. With the sirtuins mobilized, the yeast cells seemed better equipped to prevent the breakdown of their DNA, allowing for a longer life.

For the current study, the scientists used genetic engineering to tinker with the worms' and flies' DNA; when the creatures lacked the ability to activate sirtuin, the benefits of resveratrol did not kick in. The resveratrol-fed flies and worms that could not activate sirtuins lived the same average length of time as the normal organisms that were not fed resveratrol.

Sinclair plans to continue this line of research with similar experiments on mice. But he said that using methods to activate sirtuins in humans is a long way off, and may never work. Whether resveratrol will help humans to live longer is "too early to say," he said. "Even if we are right about [sirtuins] being a controller for human aging, the availability of resveratrol is always going to be an issue in larger organisms such as ourselves."

# # #

For a comprehensive look at the potential health benefits of drinking wine, check out senior editor Per-Henrik Mansson's feature Eat Well, Drink Wisely, Live Longer: The Science Behind A Healthy Life With Wine

Read more about red wine polyphenols:

  • June 12, 2004
    Compound Found in Red Wine May Kill Breast Cancer Cells, New Research Finds

  • Nov. 3, 2003
    Red-Wine Compound Shows Potential for Alleviating Bronchitis, Emphysema, Research Finds

  • Sept. 10, 2003
    Researchers Discover New Potentially Beneficial Compounds in Wine

  • Aug. 26, 2003
    Red-Wine Compound May Hold Secret to Fountain of Youth, Harvard Researchers Believe

  • May 30, 2003
    Red-Wine Compound Might Help Prevent Cancer-Causing Sunburns, Study Finds

  • May 23, 2003
    Red-Wine Polyphenol May Help Keep the Heart Healthy, Research Finds

  • May 1, 2003
    Red-Wine Compound Shows Potential for Fighting Skin Cancer

  • Feb. 4, 2002
    Red-Wine Extract Extends Shelf Life of Fruit

  • Nov. 7, 2002
    Red-Wine Compound to Be Tested As Anti-Cancer Drug

  • April 15, 2002
    Study Sheds New Light on How Red Wine May Help Fight Cancer

  • June 30, 2000
    Scientists Uncover Why Resveratrol May Help Prevent Cancer

  • Feb. 28, 1997
    Red Wine Contains Potential Anti-Cancer Agent

    Read more about the potential health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption:

  • July 8, 2004
    Wine Consumption May Not Lead to Gout

  • June 24, 2004
    Moderate Wine Drinking May Decrease Ovarian Cancer Risk, Study Finds

  • Oct. 3, 2003
    The Beer Gut Takes a One-Two Punch: Research Finds Drinking May Not Lead to Weight Gain

  • Sept. 24, 2003
    Women Who Drink Wine More Likely to Become Pregnant, Research Shows

  • Sept. 22, 2003
    Moderate Wine Drinking May Reduce Risk of Rectal Cancer, Study Shows

  • Sept. 10, 2003
    Researchers Discover New Potentially Beneficial Compounds in Wine

  • Aug. 26, 2003
    Red-Wine Compound May Hold Secret to Fountain of Youth, Harvard Researchers Believe

  • Aug. 22, 2003
    Doctors Should Start Recommending Alcohol Consumption, Argue Australian Researchers

  • July 22, 2003
    Following a Mediterranean-Style Diet Reduces Risk of Deadly Diseases, Study Finds

  • July 10, 2003
    Alcohol Does Not Affect Risk of Parkinson's, Study Finds

  • June 30, 2003
    Risk of Diabetes Lower in Young Women Who Drink Moderately, Harvard Study Finds

  • June 4, 2003
    Moderate Drinking May Reduce Tumors in the Colon

  • May 30, 2003
    Red-Wine Compound Might Help Prevent Cancer-Causing Sunburns, Study Finds

  • May 23, 2003
    Red-Wine Polyphenol May Help Keep the Heart Healthy, Research Finds

  • May 1, 2003
    Red-Wine Compound Shows Potential for Fighting Skin Cancer

  • April 25, 2003
    Grape-Seed Extract to Be Tested for Effectiveness in Reducing Scars From Radiation Treatments

  • April 11, 2003
    Light to Moderate Drinking May Be Associated With Lower Rates of Dementia in Elderly, Says Study

  • Feb. 26, 2003
    New Research Sheds More Light on Link Between Drinking and Stroke Risk

  • Jan. 31, 2003
    French Scientists Develop White Wine That Acts Like a Red

  • Jan. 16, 2003
    Wine, Beer Wipe Out Ulcer-Causing Bacteria, Study Shows

  • Jan. 10, 2003
    Frequent Drinking Lowers Chance of Heart Attack, Study Shows

  • Jan. 7, 2003
    Drinking Has Little Effect on Risk of Lung Cancer, Research Finds

  • Dec. 24, 2002
    Moderate Alcohol Consumption May Be Better for Women's Hearts Than for Men's, Canadian Study Finds

  • Dec 23, 2002
    Moderate Wine Consumption Linked to Lower Risk of Dementia, Study Finds

  • Nov. 7, 2002
    Red-Wine Compound to Be Tested As Anti-Cancer Drug

  • Nov. 5, 2002
    Drink to Your Health and Pour Some on the Counter, Too

  • Nov. 4, 2002
    Moderate Wine-Drinking May Help Prevent Second Heart Attack, French Study Finds

  • Aug. 31, 2002
    Wine Drinkers Have Healthier Habits, Study Reports

  • Aug. 22, 2002
    Red Wine Helps Keep Obese People Heart-Healthy, Study Finds

  • July 24, 2002
    Red Wine May Help Fight Prostate Cancer, Spanish Study Finds

  • June 11, 2002
    Wine Consumption, Especially White, May Be Good for the Lungs, Study Finds

  • June 3, 2002
    Moderate Drinking May Decrease Women's Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes

  • May 15, 2002
    Wine Drinkers Less Likely to Catch Common Cold, Research Finds

  • April 15, 2002
    Study Sheds New Light on How Red Wine May Help Fight Cancer

  • Jan. 31, 2002
    Moderate Drinking May Be Good for the Brain, Not Just the Heart, New Study Finds

  • Jan. 31, 2002
    Wine Drinking May Reduce Risk of Dementia in Elderly, Italian Study Finds

  • Jan. 21, 2002
    English Scientists Claim to Crack French Paradox

  • Dec. 31, 2001
    New Study Sheds More Light on Antioxidants in Red Wine

  • Dec. 13, 2001
    Moderate Drinking Does Not Reduce Chance of Becoming Pregnant, Research Finds

  • Nov. 27, 2001
    Moderate Drinking Can Slow Hardening of Arteries, New Research Shows

  • Nov. 6, 2001
    Study Examines Drinking's Effect on Brain Health in Elderly

  • Aug. 15, 2001
    Wine Drinkers Smarter, Richer and Healthier, Danish Study Finds

  • April 25, 2001
    Chemical Compound Found in Red Wine May Lead to Treatment for Prostate Cancer

  • April 20, 2001
    Drinking Wine After a Heart Attack May Help Prevent Another, Study Finds

  • Jan. 9, 2001
    Wine Consumption Linked to Lower Risk of Strokes in Women, Finds CDC Study

  • Sept. 30, 2000
    Wine May Have More Health Benefits Than Beer and Liquor

  • Aug. 7, 2000
    Moderate Alcohol Consumption May Reduce Women's Risk of Heart Disease, New Study Shows

  • July 25, 2000
    Harvard Study Examines the Role of Moderate Consumption in Women's Diets

  • June 30, 2000
    Scientists Uncover Why Resveratrol May Help Prevent Cancer

  • May 31, 2000
    Moderate Consumption Still Part of Healthy Diet

  • May 22, 2000
    Moderate Drinking May Lower Men's Risk of Diabetes, Study Finds

  • May 17, 2000
    European Study Links Wine Drinking to Lower Risk of Brain Deterioration in Elderly

  • May 12, 2000
    Wine May Increase Bone Mass in Elderly Women, Study Finds

  • Feb. 4, 2000
    Dietary Guidelines Committee Revises Recommendations on Alcohol

  • Dec. 17, 1999
    Moderate Drinking Can Cut Heart Attacks By 25 Percent

  • Nov. 25, 1999
    Study Finds Moderate Drinking Cuts Risk of Common Strokes

  • Nov. 10, 1999
    Study Points to Potential Benefits of Alcohol for Heart Patients

  • Jan. 26, 1999
    Moderate Alcohol Consumption Cuts Risk of Stroke for Elderly

  • Jan. 19, 1999
    Light Drinkers Face No Added Risk of Breast Cancer

  • Jan. 5, 1999
    New Studies Link Wine and Health Benefits

  • Oct. 31, 1998
    Here's to Your Health: Is it now medically correct for a physician to prescribe a little wine to lower the risk of heart disease?



  • Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

    Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
    To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

    WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.