Resveratrol, a miracle compound present in grapes and red wine and known to protect the heart, has also been found to reduce fat cells, according to a study.
Past research has found that resveratrol protected mice fed a high-calorie diet from the health problems of obesity, by mimicking the effects of calorie restriction.
Researchers at the University of Ulm in Germany wanted to know if resveratrol could mimic the effects of calorie restriction in human fat cells.
The team used a strain of human fat cell precursors, called preadipocytes, that develop into mature fat cells, according to the study's co-author Pamela Fischer-Posovszky.
In the cell-based study, they found that resveratrol inhibited the pre-fat cells from increasing and prevented them from converting into mature fat cells.
Also, resveratrol hindered fat storage. Most interesting, according to Fischer-Posovszky, was that resveratrol reduced production of certain cytokines, substances that may be linked to the development of obesity-related disorders such as diabetes and clogged coronary arteries.
Also, resveratrol stimulated formation of a protein known to decrease the risk of heart attack. Obesity decreases this substance, called adiponectin.
The new finding is consistent with the theory that the resveratrol in red wine explains the French paradox, the observation that French people eat a relatively high-fat diet but have a low death rate from heart disease.
One small study found that a single dose of up to five grams of resveratrol (much higher than the amount in a bottle of red wine) caused no serious ill effects in healthy volunteers, Pamela pointed out.
These results are slated to be presented Wednesday at The Endocrine Society's 90th Annual Meeting in San Francisco.