November 2, 2006
Hallelujah! It’s here. Better than finding out that drinking red wine and eating dark chocolate are good for you. Way, way better than liposuction and tummy tucks. So much better than the South Beach Diet; get out of here with your South Beach Diet. I’m talking about resveratrol (marketeers take note: we need a catchy new name for this stuff, and quick). And you need never diet again, because resveratrol lets you eat whatever you want, and stay as healthy and active as your brother the fitness freak. Yee-ha!
If you don’t mind being fat, that is. Resveratrol doesn’t make you thinner. What it does, apparently, is "harness the natural life-extending capabilities activated by caloric restriction" without requiring you to go through the tiresome process of actually restricting calories. So you can gorge on all the Big Macs, frosties, fries and hot apple pies you like, get as fat as you like, and maintain the internal chemistry of a lean person.
In a study on mice, scientists found that those who ate a junk food diet but also received resveratrol "remained healthy and were about 30 percent less likely to die, living as long as the animals that ate a normal diet and stayed thin." Not only that, but the hearts and livers of the resveratrol mice appeared normal, as did a number of key genes. The mice were active and agile as well, despite the increased bulk engendered by their all junk food diet.
And you know who we have to thank for this? The French. That’s right, the French. Scientists were trying to figure out why French people have significantly lower rates of heart disease and diabetes than Americans, despite their fairly high-calorie, high-fat diet. Red wine seemed to be the key. What is it about red wine that counteracts a high fat diet? Resveratrol, that’s what. So, they figured, if a little resveratrol is good for you, what would happen if you took a lot? We’re Americans. We don’t have time to linger over meals with countless bottles from the local vineyard. Pop a resveratrol instead.
I haven’t eaten a Big Mac in at least 20 years. Aside from a tendency to put on weight that is not helped by Big Macs, I don’t like the way eating junk food makes me feel. Lethargic, narcotized, even. I also don’t like being overweight. It doesn’t feel good. It makes it harder to do other things I love, like hiking up mountains, or running, or playing with my dog, or making love, or just about anything.
So what I want to know is, does taking resveratrol make eating a supersized fast food meal from your U.S. Route 1 restaurant of choice feel like eating a lentil and brown rice casserole? Does it make a 10 ounce steak dinner with onion rings (hold the vegetables, please) feel like a tofu stir-fry? Does it make a ring ding feel like a granny smith? Does it make being fat feel like being thin?
If so, they’re definitely on to something. Not for me, as I have too many hangups about being overweight to ever just let rip. But for those without such baggage, laissez les bon temps roulez! Fat will be the new thin. Kate Moss, fuhgeddaboudit. New Rimmel London girl: Dawn French. And Oprah! No more yo-yo dieting for our favorite national personality. What would Oprah be like if freed from worries about food and weight? A presidential campaign cannot be ruled out.
Scientists urge caution, of course, and patience. They say much more work needs to be done before resveratrol makes the leap from mice to humans. Meanwhile, the lead scientist on the study and, it appears, any scientist remoted associated with the study, have begun taking the stuff themselves. Mmm-hmmm.
Resveratrol nation, here we come.
See "A Compound in Red Wine Makes Fat Mice Healthy" (Washington Post, 11/2/06)