Fat and Healthy Mice


A new study finding that mega-doses of resveratrol, a chemical in red wine, protects mice from the harmful effects of a high-fat, high-calorie diet provides support for one explanation of the "French Paradox" (the French combination of low heart disease rates with high-fat diets). It also reinforces the argument that bad outcomes commonly attributed to excess weight may in fact be due to other factors associated with (but not caused by) obesity—in this case, poor diet. The New York Times reports (emphasis added):

The researchers fed one group of mice a diet in which 60 percent of calories came from fat. The diet started when the mice, all males, were a year old, which is middle-aged in mouse terms. As expected, the mice soon developed signs of impending diabetes, with grossly enlarged livers, and started to die much sooner than mice fed a standard diet.

Another group of mice was fed the identical high-fat diet but with a large daily dose of resveratrol (far larger than a human could get from drinking wine). The resveratrol did not stop them from putting on weight and growing as tubby as the other fat-eating mice. But it averted the high levels of glucose and insulin in the bloodstream, which are warning signs of diabetes, and it kept the mice's livers at normal size.

Even more striking, the substance sharply extended the mice's lifetimes. Those fed resveratrol along with the high- fat diet died many months later than the mice on high fat alone, and at the same rate as mice on a standard healthy diet. They had all the pleasures of gluttony but paid none of the price.

Overall, I think this approach is better than starving for longevity.

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  1. Gee, do you think this might be a publicity stunt for the not one but TWO movies about rats with distinguished tastes?

  2. Nah, this is Big Red Wine’s revenge for certain nasty things said about Merlot in certain recent movies.

    I understand that the quantities of resveratrol needed are quite high, and that the full effects found in this study aren’t being felt by the French or by any other human being. Not yet, anyway. Lesser effects are another issue, of course, and I intend to take resveratrol without reservation. Science is for wussies–take the resveratrol plunge!

  3. There has been at least one report to the effect that the “French Paradox” is not due to the consumption of red wine but to the fact that the cause of death on french death certificates is frequently incorrect. In other words it is likely that french heart disease rates are significantly understated.

  4. There has been at least one report to the effect that the “French Paradox” is not due to the consumption of red wine but to the fact that the cause of death on french death certificates is frequently incorrect. In other words it is likely that french heart disease rates are significantly understated.

  5. Mind you, the old version of the story fits my lifestyle better so I’m sticking with that.

  6. Somebody email this study to that guy from yesterday’s article.

    When do we find out that cream pies are, in fact, the healthiest thing on the planet?

  7. Lab rats have all the fun.

  8. From Sleeper:

    [Discussing a recently thawed 20th century man]

    Yes, this morning, for breakfast, he requested something called wheat germ, organic honey, and tiger’s milk.

    [laughs] Oh, yes. Those were the charmed substances that some years ago were felt to contain life-preserving properties.

    You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies? Or hot fudge?

    Those were thought to be unhealthy–precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.


  9. I do like a side order of wine-fed mousemeat to go with my horse steak…

  10. I always thought the “French Paradox” was when they imply they are the pinnacle of a civilized society at the same time being obsessed with Jerry Lewis.

    C’mon, somebody had to say it. We are 8 posts in already.

  11. Great, Americans growing even more gluttonous is just what the world needs.

    A healthy diet is also good for the mind, not just the body. With ever bigger Americans come bigger cars, bigger houses, bigger energy consumption and waste. Bigger everything.

    2000 calories a day makes for a healthy person AND planet. Mr. Linksvayer (the “starving” man) should be applauded.

  12. No, no, you missed the obvious point that we should be forced to eat less. My, Dan T. impersonations aren’t what they used to be 🙂

  13. My all-time favorite tabloid headline was “Live to be 100 on a Garlic & Cabbage Diet.”

    My first thought was that it would be a long lonely 100 years.

  14. PL, with our natural resources on the brink of disappearing forever and the spectre of global warming looming, no one will “force” us to eat less, we’ll eat less because there WILL BE less food, if any. A lot of good our SUV’s will do us when there’s no supermarkets to drive them to.

  15. Nah. Can’t be Dan T. Didn’t advocate the imprisonment of people owning SUVs. 🙂

  16. By golly Dan, I think you solved the problem.

  17. My, Dan T. impersonations aren’t what they used to be 🙂

    I had to turn off the filter after reading this remark. Yep, email address suggests an impersonator.

    Maybe life behind the filter isn’t so much fun after all.

  18. Dan T.,

    There may be less food, but there will be plenty of people. Need I say more? In this Heston-lovin’ forum? I think not.

  19. PL

    Yes. Let’s add a little ambrosia [in the original sense] to our diet.

  20. Ah, let’s leave the troll alone and do something constructive. I want to know what foods, currently abhorred by the NutriNazis, everyone wants to learn are good for us? I’m perfectly blissful that butter has been, well, if not rehabilitated, at least paroled. Red wine, coffee, pecans, and dark chocolate are encouraged. I’m now waiting to find out that doughnuts, ice cream, porterhouse steaks, and deep-fried stuff in general are healthy. The only thing that would be better would be to learn that rice cakes and soy stuff are, in fact, instant carcinogens.

  21. Fresh raspberries and chocolate hazelnut ice cream.

    Food to clog an artery for!

  22. I have always waited for a nutritional study proving that what I already do is healthful, and finally it’s happened.

  23. Good one, Aresen, and I won’t even knock off points for the raspberries, which are phenomenal, even if really good for you. If for no other reason, enabling contact between chocolate and hazelnuts justifies Cortez killing all those Aztecs. (Please, this is not an excuse to argue about the Conquistadors. We’ll make a date for that next October.)

  24. Okay, Jacob, maybe you read the full article (I did not) instead of just the abstract, but I note that the abstract you link to speaks only of a high-CALORIE diet and doesn’t say anything about a high-FAT diet. [I say this noting that I’ve shed a bunch of pounds using an Atkins-like diet, high protein and high fat, and actually more calories, but fewer carbs, than my old diet and my cholesterol and triglyceride numbers are better than they’ve been in years]. Could it be high CARBS are the problem, and that’s what the resveratrol offers protection against? I’m always leary of any kind of analysis of “high calorie” diets without knowing if that’s high calories from carbs, fat or protein, because the body processes those things quite differently.


  25. Haven’t eggs been somewhat rehabilitated?

    I’m hoping for info to come out that refutes that discovery that said frying potatoes caused them to release some ghastly chemical? I love me my french fries.

  26. I’ve entirely given up on reading food/health studies.

    I just figure that if it gets from the field to my plate without many complicated processing steps in between, then it’s probably good for me.

    Of course, by this definition, bacon is far better for me than tofu.

  27. justifies Cortez killing all those Aztecs.

    Completely off-topic, but the Aztecs deserved everything they got from the Spaniards. They were by far the evilest civilization that ever existed.

  28. Resveratrol is also present in olive oil.

  29. Have you noticed that the “magic bullet” foods are all very colorful?

    Red wine, curry, etc.

    When I was in College I worked on some research (I was the minimum wage lab assistant) that tried to identify good catalysts for a “coal to liquid fuel” reactions. Some of the best catalysts that we identified were pigments (I don’t recall which pigments, but they were deep red). This correlation of pigmentation to chemical activity has intrigued me ever since.

    It seems like good generic advice on food would be to eat and drink the colorful stuff.

  30. The only thing that would be better would be to learn that rice cakes and soy stuff are, in fact, instant carcinogens.

    If it makes you feel better, Karen, grains that are grown in warm, humid climtates — such as rice and corn — are often contaminated with very low levels of aflatoxin, a highly carcinogenic compound.

    So, rice cakes might indeed be carcinogenic, if one eats enough of them.

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