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    Friday, July 31, 2009

    Resveratrol 101: Health Secrets of Wine and Grapes Discovered

    Researchers have uncovered the secret of why red wine, grapes and some other fruits are beneficial for health. Scientists from Scotland and Singapore have discovered that resveratrol in red wine (and red grapes) has potent anti-inflammatory properties that could be tapped for treating life threatening inflammation – the kind associated with massive systemic infection (sepsis), appendicitis, and peritonitis (abdominal inflammation).

    Sepsis and peritonitis can be deadly. Antibiotic resistance increases the risk of dying from a virulent bacteria or virus. Inflammation releases cytokines that harm tissues in the body, sometimes irreversibly. The new study shows that resveratrol compounds might be used to develop drugs that prevent inflammation and risk of death from life threatening illnesses.

    Alirio Melendez, senior lecturer on the faculty of medicine at Glasgow Biomedical Research Centre in Scotland participated in the research. Melendez explains, "Strong acute inflammatory diseases such as sepsis are very difficult to treat and many die every day due to lack of treatment. Moreover, many survivors of sepsis develop a very low quality of life due to the damage that inflammation causes to several internal organs. The ultimate goal of our study was to identify a potential novel therapy to help in the treatment of strong acute inflammatory diseases."

    The secret to the health benefits of resveratrol comes from the compound’s ability to prevent the formation of two different molecules that trigger inflammation - sphingosine kinase and phospholipase D, discovered in mouse studies.

    The scientists compared inflammatory response in two groups of mice – one group was pretreated with resveratrol. The mice not given resveratrol displayed strong inflammatory response compared to the mice give the natural compound.

    Resveratrol is found in nature, and is now shown to have potential for treating inflammation associated with serious illness. Plants produce resveratrol as a defense against bacteria. Red wines produce resveratrol during fermentation. Red grape juice, some white wines, blueberries, mulberry fruit, and peanuts also contain resveratrol in varying quantities. Red grapes contain the highest levels of resveratrol. Some manufacturers of supplements get the compound from Japanese knotweed.

    The study showing the potential of resveratrol for treating life threatening illness is published in the FASEB journal. According to Editor-in-Chief, Gerald Weissmann, MD, "The therapeutic potential of red wine has been bottled up for thousands of years and now that scientists have uncorked its secrets, they find that studies of how resveratrol works can lead to new treatments for life-threatening inflammation."


    Friday, July 24, 2009

    Drink wine, fight cavities?

    Call it fluoride for grown-ups: New research suggests a crisp chardonnay may fight cavities.

    Italian researchers who tested supermarket-bought red and white wines report both were effective in controlling the growth of bacteria that cause tooth decay and sore throats.

    Sadly, though, the ingredients work best when you remove them from wine.

    The researcher says the components in wine that fight oral bacteria might one day be added to mouthwashes and toothpastes. Experiments are already being carried out in humans to test wine's effects on cavities and upper respiratory tract infections, according to Gabriella Gazzani of the faculty of pharmacy at the University of Pavia in Italy.

    Her research team has been looking at components of food that might possess any kind of biological activity.

    It was already known wine contains a number of biologically active compounds that, once they reach the stomach and digestive tract, have health benefits. One or two glasses a day of red wine has been shown to cut the risk of coronary heart disease and cancer.

    Scientists who once tested 16 Chilean reds showed antimicrobial activity against six strains of helicobacter pylori, the bacteria that cause stomach ulcers. Others have shown red and white wines are as effective as bismuth salicylate (Pepto-Bismol) against "traveller's diarrhea."

    As well, according to a background release, wine has been used "since antiquity" in wound healing. In the Bible, Luke tells how the Good Samaritan "went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine."

    But this is the first study to show wine may have health benefits from the moment it wets lips and gum.

    Gazzani's team, whose work will be published in the next issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, tested the bacteria-fighting activity of commercial red and white wines against eight strains of oral streptococci. The bacteria can colonize tooth surfaces, triggering plaque formation. They can also cause pharyngitis - infection of the pharynx or tonsils.


    Two wines - an Italian red, Valpolicella Classico DOC Superiore, and an Italian white, Pinot Nero DOC, both 2003 vintages- were purchased from a local supermarket.

    The wines were de-alcoholized before testing to rule out any effect of ethanol.

    In lab experiments, both wines were active against streptococci. The red had a stronger effect than the white, though the difference was not statistically significant, meaning it may have been due to chance.

    Gazzani says the organic acids in wine, such as acetic, citric, lactic, succinic and tartaric acids "are responsible for the antibacterial activity against oral streptococci." The acids are found naturally in grapes or are produced during fermentation.

    The finding suggests wine "enhances oral health," the researchers conclude.

    The team got better results with chemicals removed from the wine than from the wine itself, suggesting there are other ingredients in wine that counteract the antibacterial work.

    Gazzani says the main cavity-causing sugar is sucrose. "Wines are not so rich in sugar, and in particular they are poor in sucrose," she says.

    Still, wine bottles won't be carrying the Canadian Dental Association seal of approval anytime soon. President Dr. Darryl Smith cautioned that the research is "very early on" and has not been proven in humans.

    "There may be things in our diet that if we eat will contribute to our overall health and it would nice to think - really nice to think - that some of the things that we may really enjoy are helpful in moderation," said Smith, who practises in Valleyview, Alta.

    "But the bottom line is, brushing and flossing and eating well are the really important things right now" in preventing tooth decay, he says.

    Article written by Sharon Kirkey for Canwest News Service.


    Thursday, July 23, 2009

    Resveratrol...what's all the hoopla about?

    Do you search for a fountain of youth? Seemingly ever elusive, the so-called fountain may be closer than you think. Green tea, blueberries, pomegranate, acai berry and mangosteen are just a few antioxidant powerhouses.

    But a recent discovery and stabilization of a fascinating molecule has people in the science and research world doing a double take.

    It's called resveratrol. Information was first introduced in the earlier part of the decade when a group of Harvard researchers led by Dr. David Sinclair accidentally stumbled upon the molecule.

    They were shocked at what the tests on mice revealed. The resveratrol actually mimicked the life- extending benefits of calorie restriction. You know, the thing where you limit your caloric intake to around 1,000 calories a day and stop eating entirely after early afternoon each day because it actually extends life? (Um, yay??) I'm not sure I'd want my life extended if that's what it entails!

    The scientists also compared mice fed a high-fat diet with no resveratrol to mice fed the same high-fat diet with resveratrol. The researchers reported that while running, the mice fed the resveratrol looked like mini-olympians compared to the others.

    And it causes cells to behave well. Excellent, actually. It has potential cancer-fighting and preventing qualities, as well as the potential ability to fight and prevent heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and the list goes on.

    So what foods contain it? There are trace amounts found in blueberries, bilberries, mulberries and peanuts, with higher amounts found in red and muscadine grape skins. That could possibly lend an explanation to the mysterious French paradox...Why do French people have such low instances of heart disease when their diet is so high in fat? Red wine is a staple of their diet.

    But some research suggests that this couldn't possibly be an explanation for the paradox, because to receive the necessary life-extending benefits of resveratrol, one would have to consume around 1,000 glasses of red wine a day.

    Sinclair and his team found a way to stabilize the molecule and now it's offered as a supplement. The marketing world is already jumping all over this, but of course, not all resveratrol is the same.

    There are capsules, individual drinks and the liquid version where you measure a teaspoon for the daily dose. The latter is the one I've been taking for awhile now. One teaspoon contains the same amount of resveratrol as 1,000 glasses of red wine.

    When I opened it for the first time, I was shocked because it looked like extremely thick blood with a deeper cranberry hue! It tastes like a sweet, almost condensed merlot.

    Studies show that higher levels of the molecule are detected in human plasma hours later through buccal delivery of the liquid, whereas only trace amounts are detected with most capsule forms.

    It's also available in a few select skincare lines. And back in the '90's a discovery was made showing resveratrol applied topically could actually inhibit skin cancer.

    The negative side effects? So far none have been found except upset stomach and occasional joint pain associated with large doses.

    Sinclair has partnered with a major pharmaceutical company and they have invested millions in the promise of resveratrol. They are currently working on a stronger dose of the product which should be available in five years. It is currently being tested on cancer patients in a trial setting.

    I'm not a physician, nutritionist or salesperson for the product, but I guess I can say I do have more energy since I started taking it. Maybe it's working, maybe it's not, but it does give me a little more peace of mind!

    This article was written by Amanda Dalla Riva for The News Journal


    Tuesday, July 14, 2009

    Group Researches Fountain of Youth Pill

    What if you could add a quarter of a century to your life by simply taking a pill? It sounds like an infomercial pitch, but that's the kind of pill a team of St. Louis researchers is trying to develop and volunteers are already taking it.

    What they are testing is a naturally occurring substance called resveratrol. It is found in red wine and it is a powerful antioxidant.

    It's so powerful that researchers at Washington University are studying whether large doses of resveratrol, and by large we mean the equivalent of hundreds of bottles of wine, in a single pill can help people live longer. To find out, they are testing it on people.

    While studies of resveratrol have already shown encouraging results in lab animals, researchers already know of a proven way to substantially slow the aging process without drugs.

    It's called calorie restriction: a diet of only 1,200 to 1,500 calories a day. As part of its resveratrol study, Washington University is putting volunteers on a calorie restriction diet so they can compare the results to the group taking the pills.

    Resveratrol is not supposed to make you feel any different, because if it's working the effects would be metabolic. So researchers will look for changes in things like cholesterol and blood sugar.


    Friday, July 10, 2009

    Study Of Fellow Primates Stirs Health Hope

    Monkeys on low-calorie diet found to live longer.

    Wisconsin researchers reported yesterday that rhesus monkeys on a low-calorie diet live longer and healthier lives, a finding two decades in the making that suggests such diets might slow aging in people, too.

    Scientists have long known that dramatically cutting calories can extend the lives of yeast, flies, and rodents, discoveries that have sparked a fevered quest for a human fountain of youth. The new study in monkeys, a genetic cousin of humans, gives researchers hope that they are on the right track.

    “For 70 years, people have been wondering whether this phenomenon that occurs in rats might also occur in humans,’’ said David Sinclair, a pathology professor at Harvard Medical School who was not involved with the study. “What this paper says is while we don’t know for sure, we’ve got one extra point on the side of the people who believe it will work in humans.’’

    Because of the long lifespan of people and the rigors of the diet, studies of calorie restriction in humans are ongoing and have yet to produce definitive results.

    Scientists said the monkey study is a significant advance in a story that began in 1935, when researchers first discovered that a nutritious but calorie-restricted diet served as a fountain of youth for rodents.

    That finding grew into a body of research revealing the beneficial effects of calorie restriction in other species, and prompted a search for drugs that would exploit the same biological pathways without requiring people to go on drastic diets. Sirtris, a Cambridge company that Sinclair cofounded and was bought last year by pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, is a leader in these efforts.

    Sinclair’s discovery that resveratrol, a natural ingredient found in red wine, could mimic the effects of calorie restriction in yeast and fruit flies has helped fuel over-the-counter sales of resveratrol products. It also spurred Sirtris to create drugs that mimic resveratrol but are more potent and might be used to treat diseases of aging. The company is testing one such drug in people with type 2 diabetes.

    Using another approach, researchers reported in the journal Nature this week that rapamycin, an organ transplant drug, significantly extended life spans in mice. But much remains unanswered. A study last year reported that resveratrol had health benefits for adult mice but did not help those fed a standard diet to live longer. Researchers also cautioned people not to take rapamycin because it suppresses the immune system.

    In the new study, published in the journal Science, researchers followed a group of 76 rhesus monkeys that took different paths in adulthood. Half were put on a diet consuming 30 percent fewer calories and half continued as before.

    After two decades, five monkeys on a restricted diet had died of age-related causes such as cardiovascular disease or cancer, compared with 14 monkeys on a normal diet. The monkeys on the restricted diet were healthier overall, with no diabetes, and fewer cases of cancer or cardiovascular disease. In key regions, their brain tissue also shrunk less than monkeys on a normal diet.

    The monkeys on a normal diet also looked visibly older - their eyes sunken, coats thinner and posture cramped - than their dieting counterparts, according to Ricki J. Colman, lead author of the paper and a scientist at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center.

    “This report in my mind represents a major transition in our project. For years, we’ve been asking the question: ‘Will caloric restriction slow the aging process in monkeys?’ Now we think that we have accumulated solid data to say yes, it will,’’ said Richard Weindruch, a professor of medicine at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and senior author of the paper.

    Leonard Guarente, an MIT biologist who did pioneering work on aging yeast and sits on the scientific advisory board of Sirtris, said the diet’s strongest result was in preventing diabetes. But he called the study preliminary and questioned the authors’ decision to exclude deaths deemed to not be related to aging.

    “I would say that this study provides hope that it [calorie restriction] will combat diabetes and metabolic diseases, but the question of other diseases and actually living longer are still open questions,’’ Guarente said.

    Weindruch is careful to call the new study an interim report, with one of the most important questions still to be answered: how long will the 33 remaining monkeys - 20 on the restricted diet, and 13 eating normally - ultimately live? The average lifespan of a rhesus monkey in captivity is 27 years.

    Susan Roberts, director of the energy metabolism laboratory at the Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, points out that the animal study can’t address many aspects of the diet, including the psychological effects: Are the monkeys hungry? Happy? Able to react to stress?

    She is studying 72 people in one branch of a national calorie restriction study intended to tease out the health and psychological effects.

    “This is a good study, one that we have been waiting for a long time,’’ Roberts wrote about the monkey research in an e-mail. “It adds to the evidence piling up that calorie restriction, independent of thinness, is a healthy way to stay alive and healthy longer.’’


    Local Heart Doctors First in Nation to Announce Active Investigation of Red Wine (Resveratrol) Pills, Issue Consumer Precautions

    Red wine (resveratrol) pills appear to be the rage these days and a local group of cardiologists wants to lead the way for patients and consumers to learn more about them. They may be among the first U.S. cardiologists to do so.


    In response to growing inquiries about the heart-healthy properties of red wine pills, a local cardiology group says it will soon begin to study the effects of these pills among their patients with heart problems and suggests consumers consult with knowledgeable doctors before launching into unguided self use.

    Jacqueline Hollywood M.D., cardiologist with the Advanced Cardiology Institute in Ft. Lee, New Jersey, says so many patients are hearing about the promises of red wine pills that their group decided to learn with their patients rather than leave them to pursue unguided use.

    Dr. Hollywood says human studies are largely derived from users of red wine, not red wine pills, so there is a need for research studies, but is confident that red wine pills are safer than an alcoholic beverage.

    Nate Lebowitz M.D., also a cardiologist with the Advanced Cardiology Institute, says the goal is to find out if red wine pills can actually mimic the French Paradox, the fact that red-wine drinking adults in France, who consume a high-fat and calorie-rich diet, experience a much lower mortality rate from heart disease than North Americans.

    Americans first became aware of the French Paradox in 1991 when it was aired on CBS' 60 Minutes television program. Red wine resveratrol pills first gained attention late in 2003 shortly after Harvard researchers noted that a resveratrol, a molecule found in red wine, prolonged the life of yeast cells in a lab dish. Since then resveratrol has been proven to extend the life of fruit flies, roundworms, cold-water fish and high-fat fed mice.

    "We will cautiously begin some studies, to measure markers, like inflammation, cholesterol, blood clotting, and maybe even imaging of coronary or carotid arteries, to see if these pills live up to their promise," says Dr. Lebowitz.

    Forward thinking doctors needed

    Howard Rothman M.D., a senior cardiologist at the Advanced Cardiology Institute, says their group of cardiologists has offered many tests and therapies based on credible scientific publications long before these interventions were fully tested with outcome studies and before they were more widely accepted, and red wine pills are just another example. "Patients want to know we are forward thinking, not waiting ten years for consensus. People need medical strategies and preventive care now, before they develop vascular problems," said Dr. Rothman.

    Dr. Rothman says the idea of providing the heart healthy molecules found in red wine in a pill without the accompanying alcohol, sugars or calories, sounds appropriate, but that only further testing will reveal their effectiveness.

    For their many patients who now inquire about these pills, the Advanced Cardiology Institutes doctors selected a red wine pill that had been previously tested in animals and humans. "There may be poorly made brands or improper dosages and we want to make sure the patients are taking a product that has the best chance of working and does not produce avoidable side effects," says Dr. Rothman.

    Dr. Rothman cautions that the molecules in red wine, like resveratrol (rez-vair-ah-trawl) and quercetin (qwer-see-tin), may interfere with prescription medications, and should not be taken at the same time as red wine pills.

    Side effects, while few and mostly mild and reversible, are possible, such as dizziness, fatigue, headaches and sore Achilles tendons, which are the most commonly experienced.

    Red wine pills commonly feature resveratrol, a molecule that has produced strikingly positive effects in animal studies. Resveratrol inhibits blood clots, reduces inflammation and favorably alters cholesterol, among its many beneficial properties.

    Red wine molecules pre-condition the heart

    Dr. Lebowitz says, in animals, resveratrol has been shown to produce what is called a pre-conditioning effect for the heart. Normally a protective enzyme called heme-oxygenase is rapidly produced following a heart attack to limit damage to heart muscle tissue caused by the release of iron. In animal studies, resveratrol has been shown to trigger the production of heme-oxygenase prior to a heart attack and therefore limit damage caused by the event, he says.

    Dr. Lebowitz says the pre-conditioning effect is only achieved when proper doses of resveratrol are employed. Too little and there is no benefit, and too much resveratrol and the damage caused by a heart attack will be worsened. "This is why we want to guide our patients, rather than leave them to navigate in the use of these red wine dietary supplements on their own," he says.

    Gene activation

    Resveratrol is fast becoming a household word as it now widely extolled as a potential longevity molecule. Resveratrol and other small molecules found in red wine can enter living cells and influence genetic machinery. One widely studied gene pathway, activated by resveratrol, is the Sirtuin1 gene, known as a survival gene. The current idea is to develop pills that will mimic the effects of a calorie-restricted diet, which is known to double the lifespan of all living organisms.

    Doctors at the Advanced Cardiology Institute have chosen to dispense red wine pills directly to patients to better monitor usage and compliance.

    The red wine pills are dispensed at Advanced Cardiology Institute, so the doctors can monitor usage and compliance. Generally, patients return to the office every four months for re-examination.

    "These pills may be a boon to cardiology," says Dr. Hollywood, "if they do in humans what they have been shown to do in animals, and among the red wine drinkers in France. Hopefully, we will know soon." Further information is provided at this website: