Resveratrol, a substance found in red wine and known for its life-extending properties, can also help combat obesity, a new study has claimed.
The research carried out at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris found that lemurs gained less weight during their seasonal fattening period when they were fed resveratrol-ladden dietary supplements regularly.
The supplements also boosted metabolism of the primates and appeared to cause the animals to cut back their food at mealtime -- factors that could have contributed to the anti-obesity effects, the researchers said.
"The overall goal would be to develop some dietary supplementation or nutrient strategies that could interfere and decrease body mass gain and obesity," study researcher Fabienne Aujard told LiveScience.
Also, understanding how resveratrol acts to prevent weight gain might shed light on general risk factors for obesity, Aujard said.
Previous studies have suggested resveratrol, which is generated naturally by plants to ward off pathogens, could have health benefits, acting as an antioxidant that protects against cell damage. The compound has also been shown to increase the life spans of yeast, worms and flies.
A study on mice has shown that it can ward off health problems that often come along with a high fat diet, including high blood sugar levels, and heart and liver problems.
To investigate resveratrol's impact on weight gain, Aujard and her colleagues fed six gray mouse lemurs daily doses of the compound.
The lemurs, which weigh about 133 grams on average, naturally put on grams in the winter time. In this way, lemurs more closely mimic what happens during real weight gain than would many rat and mice models, which have to be genetically altered to get fat.
After four weeks, the lemurs showed a significant reduction in their weight gain. They initially gained 1.2 grams per day, but dropped to around 0.5 grams per day by the end of the experiment.