In a new study, researchers found that some dietary compounds such as resveratrol, which is commonly found in red wine, can mimic estrogen to activate anti-aging proteins called sirtuins.
Resveratrol only mimicked estrogen at low doses but had the opposite effect at high doses, which may lend credence to suggestions that a small glass of red wine a day, but no more, can support healthy aging.
The findings may explain the impact of both sirtuins and resveratrol on health and aging.
The research was conducted by a team at UCL.
While some may think of oestrogen as a female hormone, both men and women produce it.
It is involved in many functions from appetite to reproduction and protects against many of the diseases that sirtuins can also help prevent, such as Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, metabolic syndrome, inflammatory, Alzheimer’s and heart diseases.
STACs such as resveratrol, which can be seen as ‘plant estrogens’, may be beneficial to brain, liver, skeletal muscle and bone function, by performing functions that would normally be the preserve of oestrogen.
Previous studies have suggested that these proteins could prolong healthy lifespan by preventing or slowing disease onset.
But developing effective drugs or dietary interventions has been frustrated by a lack of a common understanding of how exactly they work in the body’s cells.
The team studied sirtuin-activating compounds (STACs), including resveratrol (which is found in the skin of grapes) and isoflavones (such as daidzein present in legumes such as soya).
Although these compounds were previously thought to only increase the catalytic activity of the sirtuins, the team found that STACs, such as resveratrol, activated sirtuin signaling through estrogen receptors by mimicking oestradiol, one of the three major estrogen hormones.
But while resveratrol behaves like estrogen at low doses, the team found that in high concentrations, it acts like an antioestrogen and has the opposite effect, suppressing sirtuin signaling.
Some STACs were even better than estrogen at activating sirtuin signaling, including isoliquiritigenin, which is found in liquorice.
The team says regular low doses of resveratrol, such as through moderate consumption of red wine as part of a healthy diet, may be able to provide the benefits of estrogen.
This would apply to both men and women of all ages, but post-menopausal women may feel these benefits the most because they have lower estrogen reserves than men of a similar age.
The team says that as estrogen replacement therapy can have adverse side effects, STACs such as resveratrol and isoliquiritigenin may have potential as alternative treatments for some conditions that estrogen protects against.
The lead author of the study is Dr. Henry Bayele (UCL Structural & Molecular Biology).
The study is published in Scientific Reports.
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