Tuesday, October 31, 2006
A new supplement ... very contentious one at that. Am I to be swayed yet again? Perhaps ... if it means I can push off the eventual shuffling off of one's mortal coil for a score or so years. Some disagree that we should begin the march of immortality with baby steps though. I've snipped out a few interesting parts of the article below. Of course, in an attempt to skew your perception of this 'wonder supplement', I've avoided putting anything critical or negative into the post. Bias, it's a horrible Yellow Journalism curse to which blogging (including mine) is not immune.
Much of the new focus is on a substance in red wine called resveratrol. The interest in it started three years ago when a group led by Harvard Medical School biologist David Sinclair reported that it boosted yeast cells' life span by 70% via a mechanism resembling CR. He later co-authored a study showing that it also boosts life span in fruit flies and roundworms.[+/-] show/hide the rest of this post
the Food and Drug Administration doesn't recognize aging as a problem warranting treatment.[ed. perhaps the HMO and Life Insurance companies should though] But if a drug could retard aging, it might delay the onset and possibly the progression of age-related diseases. "When you slow aging," says University of Illinois epidemiologist S. Jay Olshansky, "you push a host of diseases to later ages at one fell swoop -- cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's, diabetes, as well as everything else that's negative about growing older."
Some researchers believe antiaging drugs could also improve health in late life -- rather than prolong misery -- letting people stay in relatively good shape until a swift demise. Their case rests partly on the svelte, energetic look of old animals on CR. "Often it's hard to identify the cause of death" in post-mortem studies on such animals, says Richard Weindruch, a University of Wisconsin CR researcher. "The only apparent problem is that they died."[ed. Err, yes. A bit of a problem there. Great funeral, nice corpse.]
The resveratrol doses used in the life-span-extension studies in animals were far higher than the amount people can get by drinking wine -- they were roughly equivalent to hundreds of glasses a day.[ed. LUSH!] Resveratrol is available as a dietary supplement, but to replicate the doses used in the studies, a person would need to take scores of pills a day. (Sirtris says it is developing prescription drugs that work like resveratrol but are hundreds of times more potent.) The dietary supplements haven't been tested in clinical trials, so their efficacy isn't proven, nor is it clear what dose might make people live healthier or longer. And although they seem safe at modest doses, megadoses may not be.[ed. See my issue with the brain hemorrhage supplement ginkgo]
Nevertheless Dr. Sinclair, a 37-year-old Australia native, thinks taking small doses over time may yield health benefits and has been taking the supplements for three years.
The story of resveratrol has its roots in scientists' increased understanding of CR. In 1989 researchers theorized that it activates a "starvation response" whose genetic machinery evolved eons ago to enable survival through periods of food shortage -- such as droughts -- by retarding the rate of aging. The response blocks growth and reproduction in order to free up energy to slow aging. The energy is siphoned to cellular systems that limit damage from harmful "free radical" molecules and other toxins produced as metabolic byproducts in cells.
The theory explained longstanding mysteries about CR, such as the fact that animals on CR become resistant to toxic chemicals and temporarily lose the ability to reproduce. It also had a dismaying implication: Our obesity-fostering, high-calorie diets are putting us in fast-aging-and-reproducing mode. That may be why childhood obesity is closely linked to early puberty, which now begins before age eight in many girls, and why adult obesity is linked to such a wide swath of aging diseases -- cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, even Alzheimer's.
In a key experiment, Dr. Sinclair showed that yeast cells' machinery for copying chromosomes runs amok as the cells age, eventually killing them. Hailed as a major advance, the discovery got Dr. Guarente on Good Morning America. It also helped him formulate a theory positing that proteins made by SIR genes activate CR's antiaging action. A SIR gene found in mammals, dubbed SIRT1, seems especially important: It makes a protein that Drs. Guarente and Sinclair believe triggers the slowed-aging mode in mammals when calorie intake is low. In their view, it's either the gerontological grail or a crucial part of it -- hence, stimulating it might slow aging.
Sirtris, the company Dr. Sinclair co-founded, says it has made progress. Test-tube and animal studies suggest that its early-stage drugs may help treat various neurological killers as well as diabetes, says Dr. Westphal. The company plans soon to begin testing a drug in people with MELAS syndrome, a rare metabolic disorder that afflicts youngsters with potentially fatal brain and muscle deterioration.
At a recent meeting on aging research, a Sirtris scientist reported that SIRT1-activating compounds, including resveratrol, dramatically lowered blood levels of glucose and insulin in mice that get diabetes on high-fat diets, as well as helped to keep their weight down -- just as CR does.
So, given that a great many diseases would be delayed till your 'day of reckoning' (Logan's Run?), would that be so bad? And this business with 'fatal brain deterioration' issues such as Alzheimer's ... hmmm. A lot could be said for that. Imagine having your coffee or morning OJ fortified with the stuff. What do YOU think? (Hat tip to Instapundit for this. Grrr, he gets all the good stuff first.)
Technorati Tags:Red Wine | Multiple Sclerosis | Aging
UPDATE: (Already?) Someone significantly more skeptical than me and more versed in pointing out that the king has no clothes has this to say.