Accessibility links

Breaking News

In Study on Overweight Mice, Chemical Reduces Effects of Obesity

Scientists also see possible anti-aging uses for resveratrol, a natural compound -- but much research remains to be done. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Resveratrol is a compound found naturally in foods including grape skins, wine and peanuts. And scientists say it may hold the secret to being fat and happy -- for a mouse, at least. A new study in Nature magazine says resveratrol helped mice live as long and as well on a high-fat diet as mice that ate healthier foods.

Researchers in the United States studied three groups of one-year-old mice. That is middle aged for a mouse.

The researchers fed one group a healthy diet of foods low in calories and fat. Another group ate high-fat, high-calorie foods.

The third group also ate a high-fat diet -- but with resveratrol added to the food. At first these mice were as slow and unhealthy as the ones eating fatty foods without resveratrol.

But in time, the researchers say, they began to show signs of good health comparable to the mice on the healthy diet. They also lived as long as those mice. And they lived at least fifteen percent longer than the mice on the high-fat diet without resveratrol.

The mice that ate high-fat foods alone showed signs of diabetes and heart disease. In humans, these two diseases are often linked to aging. But being overweight can make them happen sooner.

David Sinclair of Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, led the study. He studies ways to control aging, and the National Institute on Aging helped support the study. But he also says there is a serious need for something to help overweight people who are unable to lose weight.

Several biotechnology companies are hoping to create a treatment that will act as the resveratrol did in the mice. Professor Sinclair says researchers are a long way from developing such a thing. But a company he helped start, Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, is testing the safety of a resveratrol treatment in people with diabetes.

Resveratrol has been shown to extend the lives of other organisms including yeast, roundworms and fruit flies.

The mice in this new study received huge amounts of it -- many, many times more than a person would get from a glass of red wine. Red wine contains more resveratrol than white wine.

Many health food stores sell resveratrol. But experts say no one knows if it will work the same in humans as it did in the mice. And they say no one knows if there are long-term dangers in taking large amounts.

And that's the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Caty Weaver. For more health news, go to I'm Steve Ember.