What magic potion may improve the health of those on a high-fat diet and slow down the aging process? It's nothing new — it's that same stuff Louis Pasteur called “the most healthful and most hygienic of beverages.” Even the Bible recommended using a little of it “for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities.”

We are talking, of course, about red wine. It has been touted for its health benefits for centuries, but recent research by Harvard Medical School may have pinned down exactly how its active ingredient, resveratrol, functions in the body to aid health.

The findings, published in the May issue of Cell Metabolism, tested the effects of resveratrol on mice, CBS News reports. According to David Sinclair of Harvard Medical School, resveratrol works by acting on the SIRT1 gene (the so-called “longevity gene”), a gene that is believed to control the function and longevity of cells. Sinclair and his colleagues found that resveratrol, given at moderate doses, targets SIRT1 directly. But at higher doses it hits other genes.

The research offers the first definitive proof of the absolute link between the anti-aging properties of resveratrol and the SIRT1 gene, leading Sinclair to definitively state: “Resveratrol improves the health of mice on a high-fat diet and increases lifespan.”

Although studies in mice are not necessarily applicable to humans, the findings may lead to the development of new anti-aging treatments. To that end, Sinclair is co-founder and a consultant for Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, a company that's beginning to develop synthetic resveratrol molecules to treat age-related diseases such as Alzheimer's, dementia and strokes. Researchers now can focus on small molecule compounds that act on the enzymatic activity of the SIRT1 gene. Based on the findings, Sinclair emphasizes the value of finding the lowest effective dose of resveratrol to avoid off-target effects.

In the meantime, enjoy a nice shot of red wine (maybe with a little foie gras) and you may be able to forestall a shot of Botox.

Follow Samantha Bonar @samanthabonar.

LA Weekly