At the end of each of our chromosomes there is a non-coding, repeating DNA segment called a telomere. Telomeres act in a similar way to the protective cap on the end of a shoelace. Like the plastic or metal cap keeps the shoelace from fraying and unraveling, telomeres cap each strand of DNA to protect our chromosomes from damage. There is significant research showing the correlation between telomere length and lifespan. Prematurely shortened telomeres have been linked to increased risk of disease and decreased longevity. As we age, our telomeres will naturally shorten by 20 to 40 base pairs each
Many studies in recent years have reported that there are health benefits, including life extension, associated with moderate consumption of red wine. Why is this the case? What is it about red wine that makes it so beneficial? The answer is resveratrol, a plant compound that has been found to have numerous health enhancing properties.
Resveratrol is found in as many as 70 plant species, including grapes, Japanese knotweed and peanuts. It has been suggested that dietary resveratrol acts as an antioxidant and reduces the damage of free radicals. Resveratrol also mimics the biological effects of a calorie-restricted diet and it exhibits anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and antiviral properties.
Potent antioxidant potential is the key to resveratrol’s biological benefits. Oxidative stress is the result of an imbalance of pro-oxidant/anti-oxidant homeostasis that leads to the overproduction of reactive oxygen species (ROS). At abnormal levels, ROS can have toxic effects including damage to DNA or damage to structural components of the brain. A complex network of enzymes exist to counteract the effects of oxidative stress. The balance between pro-oxidant and anti-oxidant activity is weighted such that with additional stress or injury to the cell, oxidant stress leads to aging of cells and disease. Supplementation with antioxidants like resveratrol can restore equilibrium and reduce the risk of damage.
Mitochondria and Free Radicals
Mitochondria are the energy-producing powerhouses within cells. The more energy a certain tissue requires, such as the brain and the heart, the more mitochondria those cells contain. However, this means that more detrimental free radicals are produced as well. Free radicals are a byproduct of the enzymatic reactions that are involved in energy or ATP production and they target different parts of the body, including mitochondrial DNA.
This means that the very process that is meant to sustain life is what eventually causes the dysfunction and death of the cell. Mitochondria may well hold the key to function and dysfunction, and ultimately, to life and death. If the mitochondria do not function properly, then they cannot fulfill their role in producing energy, meaning that the cell will lose its ability to function adequately. Nutritional antioxidants, like resveratrol, may slow the aging process and prevent disease by decreasing the rate at which free radicals are produced.
Caloric restriction has been extensively studied over the last 70 years, with numerous studies suggesting that a reduction in total calorie intake by 30% to 50%, can significantly extend one’s lifespan. Caloric restriction is a dietary regimen that reduces the calorie intake of an individual, without resulting in malnutrition or a reduction in the intake of essential nutrients.
Resveratrol is able to mimic the beneficial effects of caloric restriction without drastically reducing the calorie intake. It does this by reducing the resting metabolic rate and improving muscle mitochondrial respiration. Similar to caloric restriction, resveratrol supplementation lowers energy expenditure, improves metabolism and promotes overall wellbeing.
Science is only beginning to discover the potential health benefits of resveratrol but research shows that it may be a key to living a longer, healthier life. And, while the news that red wine is good for you might encourage you to indulge in a few glasses, it’s important to remember that a supplement can have as much resveratrol as 180 glasses of wine. With supplemental resveratrol you can reap all the health benefits and your liver will thank you!
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