(CBS News) A new study shows that a compound found in red wine called resveratrol, which is an antioxidant found in dark skinned fruits, may help improve balance in older populations.
However, the researchers said that people would need to drink quite a few bottles to achieve that effect - about 700.
"Our study suggests a natural compound like resveratrol, which can be obtained either through dietary supplementation or diet itself, could actually decrease some of the motor deficiencies seen in our aging population," Dr Jane Cavanaugh, assistant professor of pharmacology at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pa., told the Telegraph. "And that would, therefore, increase an aging person's quality of life and decrease their risk of hospitalization due to slips and falls."
The findings were presented at the American Chemical Society national meeting in Philadelphia.
Previously, resveratrol has been proven to have anti-aging properties, which is believed to control the function and longevity of cells. The compound was shown to improve the health of mice on a high-fat diet and increase their lifespan. The only downside? The mice were receiving the amount of resveratrol that would be equivalent to drinking 100 glasses of wine a day.
In this study, young and old laboratory mice were fed a diet containing high doses of resveratrol for eight weeks. Then their stability was tested during a task in which the mice walked across a mesh balance beam. The older mice had more problems completing the activity and were frequently observed stumbling and falling.
After four weeks on reveratrol, the older mice were able to walk across the beam with the same balance ability as the younger mice.
What explains the effect?
In a separate experiment, neurons that had been treated with resveratrol were able to withstand the effects of dopamine, which usually kills cells. Dopamine in the body causes stress comparable to what is experienced when people age, Cavanaugh told Wine Spectator.
"We believe that resveratrol is either removing the byproducts of dopamine metabolism, which are harmful to neural cells, or increasing resistance in the cells themselves," Cavanaugh said to Wine Spectator.
Because of the high amount of resveratrol needed to achieve these effects - a 150-pound person would have to drink 700 glasses a day to get these results - Cavanaugh and her team are working on seeing if they can make similar substances that would bring the same effect.