A glass of red wine may not only compliment your meal, it may also buy you some time to enjoy more out of life.

A new study shows an ingredient found in red wine, which has previously shown to prolong the life of worms and fruit flies, may extend the lifespan of vertebrate animals like fish and possibly humans.

Researchers found adding resveratrol, an organic compound found in grapes and particularly in red wine, to the daily diet of short-lived fish prolonged their lifespan and delayed the onset of age-related memory and other problems.

Resveratrol is one of a group of antioxidant compounds called polyphenols found in red wine that has been reported to have anti-inflammatory as well as anticancer properties and is currently being studied for a variety of pharmaceutical uses.

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Although prior studies have shown that resveratrol can prolong the life of extremely short-life species, such as yeast, fruit flies, and worms, researchers say large-scale, lifelong studies in more species with longer life spans, such as mice, are too expensive to conduct.

In this study, published in Current Biology, researchers examined the effects of resveratrol on a small type of fish that lives only three months in captivity.

The results showed that adding the red wine ingredient to the daily diet of the fish prolonged their expected life span and slowed the progression of age-related memory and muscular problems.

Researchers found fish fed the lower dose of resveratrol lived an average of 33 percent longer than fish fed their normal diets, while those fed the higher dose of the red wine ingredient lived more than 50 percent longer.

They say the findings suggest that resveratrol is the first compound to consistently prolong the life of several very different animal groups and could become the stepping stone for creating drugs to prevent age-related diseases in humans.

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By Jennifer Warner, reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

SOURCES: Valenzano, D. Current Biology, Feb. 7, 2006; vol 16: pp 296-300. News release, Cell Press.