Published March 08, 2013
The good news is red wine can cure cancer. The bad news is you'd need to drink 100 glasses a day.
While David Sinclair doesn't recommend that, his work has shown red wine can have health benefits after all. And if things according to plan, they'll be available in a 'red wine pill.'
The Australian biologist said an international study, published Friday in the journal Science, had settled a controversy over whether resveratrol, a natural compound found in red wine, can fight cancer, Alzheimer's and type 2 diabetes.
Ten years ago scientists found resveratrol could activate a “sirtuin” protein known to combat age-related diseases. But the claim was disputed because the reaction could only be observed when a fluorescent chemical known as fluorophore was present.
The new study, which also involved American and Portuguese researchers, showed resveratrol could have the desired effect in the absence of the synthetic chemical.
Sinclair, who shares his time between Harvard and the University of NSW, said fluorophore mimicked “greasy” amino acids that exist naturally in the body.
“It's as we thought – resveratrol really does turn on this anti-aging enzyme," Sinclair said.
“It's more elegant and exciting than just mopping up free radicals. It's activating our body's genetic defenses against aging and diseases. That's probably more effective than any anti-oxidant.”
On the downside, red wine only contains low concentrations of the compound. But Sinclair said synthetic drugs that work the same way but with 100 times the potency could be available in five years.
About 4,000 varieties of the drug have been developed since 2005, with the more promising versions tested on mice and three progressing to human trials.
“The studies are small so we can't claim victory yet, but the drugs appear to be safe in humans so far,” Sinclair said.
He was “open to the possibility” that small doses of resveratrol could be beneficial. “But drinking a glass or two won't cure any major diseases. It's not potent enough.”