Editors' ChoiceAging

Exercise, Red Wine, or Both?

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Science Translational Medicine  25 Sep 2013:
Vol. 5, Issue 204, pp. 204ec157
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3007628

We all worry about getting older and will try myriad strategies to avoid it. Even hip, young Google just announced the launching of a startup that will focus on aging and age-related diseases. For several years, the antioxidant resveratrol (conveniently found in red wine) has been touted as an antiaging supplement with many health benefits. In a new study, Ringholm and coauthors tested whether lifelong resveratrol supplementation with or without lifelong exercise affects the oxidative capacity in skeletal muscle, which is known to decrease with aging.

Separately, both lifelong intake of resveratrol and enduring physical exercise had been shown to improve aging processes, but it was not yet known whether the two interventions act similarly on skeletal muscle or potentiate each other’s effects. The authors compared the effects of resveratrol and exercise in control mice with those in mice in which peroxisome proliferator–activated receptor γ coactivator–1α (PGC-1α) had been knocked out because it has been proposed that the PGC-1α protein mediates resveratrol-induced effects. After 12 months on resveratrol, exercise, or resveratrol-plus-exercise regimens, mice were evaluated for body weight, visceral adipose tissue content, and glucose tolerance in vivo. The authors then measured oxidative and angiogenic protein content, the activities of previously identified mediators of resveratrol’s effects (phosphorylation by adenosine monophosphate–activated protein kinase and sirtuin-driven histone deacetylation), and markers of increased exercise training (citrate synthase activity, mitochondrial DNA content, and muscle capillarization) in skeletal muscle isolated from the various experimental groups of 15-month-old mice (average life span 18 to 20 months) and compared their data with measurements in skeletal muscle from control groups of young mice at 2 months of age that did not exercise or have resveratrol supplementation. The results demonstrated that resveratrol and exercise did not potentiate each other’s effects. In fact, resveratrol by itself did not prevent age-associated changes in skeletal muscle. Exercise training emerged as the winner, and PGC-1α was essential for the observed effects of exercise on muscle aging. The authors suggested that resveratrol might improve metabolic parameters when metabolism is impaired; this was not the case in the current study, as glucose tolerance was not impaired in the old mice. On a positive note, resveratrol did reduce adipose tissue mass.

The paper lacks some details, such as the precise exercise training regimen and a description of the results from whole-body magnetic resonance imaging. However, the new work addresses a controversial topic and once again confirms that lifelong exercise training could stave off diseases of the aged and probably prolong our lives. Nonetheless, we can still enjoy an occasional glass of red wine.

S. Ringholm et al., Effect of lifelong resveratrol supplementation and exercise training on skeletal muscle oxidative capacity in aging mice: Impact of PGC-1α. Exp. Gerontol., published online 29 August 2013 (10.1016/j.exger.2013.08.012). [PubMed]

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