Colored scanning electron micrograph of endothelial cells lining the inside of a blood vessel.
Scientific studies have demonstrated that resveratrol, a compound found in grapes and other plant foods, extends life span in yeast, roundworms, and fruit flies. Now researchers in Italy have shown that resveratrol can extend the life span of the vertebrate Nothobranchius furzeri, a small fish with a maximum lifespan of 13 weeks in captivity.*
(Vertebrates include fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals, all of which are characterized by a segmented spinal column and a distinct, well-differentiated head.)
Italian scientists added three concentrations of resveratrol to the food of 110 four-week-old fish, while 47 fish received standard diets.
Thirty fish received diets containing 24 micrograms of resveratrol per gram (mcg/g) of food, 60 received 120 mcg/g of resveratrol, and 20 fish received 600 mcg/g. The fish were fed a defined amount of food twice daily.
Supplementation with resveratrol resulted in a dose-dependent extension of both median and maximum life span. The 120-mcg/g dose of resveratrol was associated with a 33% increase in median life span and a 27% jump in maximum life span, while the highest dose of resveratrol elicited a 56% increase in median life span and a 59% increase in maximum life span. Resveratrol-treated females continued to lay eggs and males were still able to fertilize eggs at 12 weeks of age, and these eggs developed into normal adults.
Control fish showed a reduction in spontaneous swimming at nine weeks of age compared to five-week-old control fish, indicating a reduction in locomotor efficiency. However, in resveratrol-treated fish, swimming performance increased until 10 weeks of age. Cognitive performance, as evaluated by task learning, also declined in nine-week-old control fish compared to five-week-old control fish. However, in fish treated with the 120-mcg/g dose of resveratrol, this age-dependent reduction was prevented. Moreover, the resveratrol-treated fish showed an absence of neurofibrillary degeneration, which was present in nine-week-old, but not five-week-old, control fish. These findings led the authors to speculate that life extension induced by resveratrol could be the result of a protective effect exerted on the nervous system.
The study authors noted that although resveratrol’s mechanisms of action are not clear, “the observation that its supplementation with food extends vertebrate life span and delays motor and cognitive age-related decline could be of high relevance for the prevention of aging-related diseases in the human population.”