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Study Reveals Red Wine Improves Health of Obese Mice

A recent study discovered that an antioxidant called resveratrol found in red wine made obese mice live longer and healthier lives. This was the first study to reveal the resveratrol has survival benefits in a mammal and could be applied to human beings.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And finally tonight, the headline-generating story about mice, red wine, and the quest for a longer and healthier life. Jeffrey Brown has our story.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Those morning headlines were fun and irresistible. "Yes, red wine holds answer, check dosage." "Fat, boozey and healthy, another toast to red wine."

    Behind the headlines is an experiment in which mice were put on a high-fat diet, but one group of them was also given high doses of resveratrol, a natural substance found in red wine. Our health correspondent, Susan Dentzer, is here to tell us what happened.

    So in short, Susan, the mice who were given this substance were healthier and lived longer.

  • SUSAN DENTZER, NewsHour Health Correspondent:

    That's right.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Tell us about it.

  • SUSAN DENTZER:

    Exactly right. Resveratrol is a naturally occurring substance that's found not just in red wine, but also grapes, peanuts, blueberries, even certain kinds of pine trees, although you didn't see headlines today suggesting that people drink pine pitch to get the benefit.

    In essence, it's been known to be given to various species and extend their lives. It's been shown to do that in the lowly yeast, in worms, and in flies. The researchers in this study decided to test it in mice. Why? Because mouse genes and human genes overlap by about

    90 percent, so if something works in mice, it's likely it could work in humans.

    They divided the mice up into three groups. One group got the standard healthy mouse diet. And the other two groups got the McDonald's equivalent of a mouse diet, high in fat and high in calories. And one of those high-fat diet groups also got the resveratrol.

    What happened was fascinating: In fact, when the mice eventually went on to die, they dissected their livers, and the livers of the mice on the high-fat diet were very fatty. That was not the case with the mice on resveratrol. The mice on the high-fat diet alone were developing the early stages of diabetes, not the case for the other mice.

    And in fact, overall, the mice who got the resveratrol seemed to be living about 15 to 20 percent longer, and their risk of dying from the same conditions that eventually would go on to kill the high-fat diet mice was cut by about 30 percent.