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Compound found in red wine could help fight obesity


April 9, 2012

Assistant professor Kee-Hong Kim from Purdue University is testing a compound that is commonly found in red wine for its ability to block the processes of fat cell development

Assistant professor Kee-Hong Kim from Purdue University is testing a compound that is commonly found in red wine for its ability to block the processes of fat cell development

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Researchers from Purdue University in Indiana are testing a compound found in red wine that has the ability to block the processes of fat cell development. The research into the compound known as piceatannol may lead towards finding a simple method to combat obesity.

Piceatannol results from the conversion of resveratrol – a compound found in red wine, grapes and peanuts that is also thought to combat cancer, heart disease and neurodegenerative diseases. When resveratrol is converted into the piceatannol compound, which naturally occurs after consumption, the compound has the ability to delay fat cell growth.

"Piceatannol actually alters the timing of gene expressions, gene functions and insulin action during adipogenesis, the process in which early stage fat cells become mature fat cells," explains Kee-Hong Kim, an assistant professor of food science at Purdue University. "In the presence of piceatannol, you can see delay or complete inhibition of adipogenesis."

Young fat cells develop over a period of 10 days or more and go through several stages of development before becoming mature fat cells. The researchers are currently testing the effects of the piceatannol compound during the early stages of fat cell development before mature fat cells occur. "These precursor cells, even though they have not accumulated lipids, have the potential to become fat cells," Kim said. "We consider that adipogenesis is an important molecular target to delay or prevent fat cell accumulation and, hopefully, body fat mass gain."

The research found that piceatannol binds to insulin receptors of immature fat cells in the first stage of adipogenesis, blocking insulin's ability to control cell cycles and activate genes that carry out further stages of fat cell formation. In other words, piceatannol is able to block the immature fat cells from maturing and growing.

Professor Kim will now start testing the compound with an animal model of obesity and hopes to find a way to protect piceatannol from degrading in the bloodstream. "We need to work on improving the stability and solubility of piceatannol to create a biological effect," Kim said.

Kim explains the study in the video below.

Source: Purdue University

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Bridget Borgobello Bridget is an experienced freelance writer, presenter and performer with a keen eye for innovative design and a passion for green technology. Australian born, Bridget currently resides in Rome and when not scribbling for Gizmag, she spends her time developing new web series content and independent cinema. All articles by Bridget Borgobello

"When resveratrol is converted into the piceatannol compound, which naturally occurs after consumption"

Resveratrol is also available in grape juice. So teetotalers should also be able to take advantage of this. Darn it, FDA, hurry up and approve resveratrol supplements.


If you want to loose weight - leave it on the plate! No one ever got fat from eating broccoli 3 times a day either. Is abstinence that hard to practice? It is definitely the cheaper way to go!


If abstinence is not your norm, then yes, it is indeed that hard to practice. Take something you love and you've had all your life. Try to stop it. Now on top of that, take something you really don't like at all and replace your loved something with that. See how easy it is then.

I agree with Gadgeteer. The FDA kills people by trying to be so damned safe, and they still get it wrong all the time! The FDA's system of approval is broken and people die as a direct result every single day. New treatment and drugs are approved far, far too slowly in the U.S. and it costs lives. The number of lives lost due to the FDA's slowness well exceeds the few lives that would be lost by considerably ramping up the approval process. Neither is ideal, but the losses by too fast of an approval process are more tolerable than the losses by too slow of one.

Dave Andrews


You are forgetting some basic facts of human evolution. Gaining weight (fat) is a long ago developed instictive behavior with very important survival value. All mammals seem to share that behavior because it works. Prior to the adoption of agriculture, virtually all animals, including humans, went through periods of plentiful food interspersed with periods of food shortage. The ability to gain weight helped guaranteed survival until food became plentiful again. It is only in the last 10,000 years that this survival mechanism (weight gain by accumulating fat) has become a significant health problem. Thinking that we can overcome millions of years of evolution by eating brocolli is wishful thinking at best. It's time to realize weight gain is a product of our evolution and will only be overcome through intervention by things mentioned in the article above.

Vern Schulze

"The losses by too fast of an approval process are more tolerable than the losses by too slow of one." This is one of the most naive and selfish comments I have read on Gizmag. It is rather easy to say this unless you know a person who had died due to the FDA testing not being thorough enough. The FDA is giving their approval of something, therefore could be held liable if a side effect is caused. They have to eliminate every possible outcome, not just make sure it does what the creators proclaim that it does.

In this case, the writer of this article should have explained why drinking red wine/grape juice or eating grapes doesn't provide the same effect in people. I don't believe that the answer to obesity is ever going to be found in a simple pill.

Gene Jordan

Well said Dave Andrews. And donwine, your problem is greater than the fat people you hate.


You've heard it said that if it taste really good - it's probably not good for you. A person can be lead by taste (which is what the food industry sells) or you can judge food by what you want. I don't like tobacco so I don't smoke. I do not want to get drunk so I stop when I feel the effect kicking in. I don't use drugs because I want to be in control. I eat for nutrition and enjoy it. Life is all about what you want. Priorities need to set early in life so making good decisions become easy. We are not doomed by "evolution>"


I'll drink to this news.

Walt Stawicki

To Donwine, If abstinence and exercise was easy then obesity would not even be a problem. Piceatannol or resveratrol may be promising but unfortunately the alcohol in wine and the fruit sugars in grapes make sourcing these compounds from red wine, grape juice or even grapes less effective for slimming; particularity if obesity has made you diabetic. I wonder if these compounds are affected by heat; when cooking with wine the alcohol is mostly lost and dry red wines are low in sugar. Perhaps the resveratrol is concentrated (it seems like red wine boiling in the picture above). Red wine is supposed to be good for you in many ways including an excellent source of anti-oxidants.


Isn't the brain largely made from fat? Chemically inhibiting fat cell formation might make you real stoopid too.

I lost quite a few pounds once. Plump middle aged ladies would latch on to me at parties and enquire, furtively, what my weight-loss secret was.

I would look them directly in the eye and say "eat less".

Their looks of crushed disappointment were priceless.

Dirk Scott

Light_Lab - It is a fallacy to think that dry wines are safe for diabetics. Ask a Pharmacist and he will explain how alcohol is another form of sugar. The wine in the picture could be fermenting. If it were boiling - there would be steam. The hydrogen atom in alcohol units with the H2O in the wine and will not separate. Alcohol dissipates while cooking at the same rate the H2O turns back to a gas. Ask a distiller how that works. Your statement: "If abstinence and exercise was easy then obesity would not even be a problem." is a bit narrow minded. Do not use the US population for an example but instead compare the US to other countries. Then ask why is the US the most obese country on this planet?


Can't say that I've seen too many fat winos! But I would agree that neither anthropology or lack of self-control is the cause of obesity, nor is abstinence or pharmaceuticals the answer. Conditioning during childhood, (our parents diets) or poor parenting skills, ("But little Bobby won't eat anything except McNuggets & fries!") are compounded with media bombardment by processed food companies using huge federal subsidies for poisons like high-fructose corn syrup. The cost of junk food relative to income has decreased rapidly over the last few decades, making empty calories more accessible to the masses. Information, education, exercise and moderation are the solutions and none of these come easy. Pills are the lazy person's answer and ultimately add more regulatory complexity to what should be a simple task. Eat more healthy, local produce and avoid anything with pretty packaging or ingredients you can't pronounce. Cook at home more and explore exciting healthy recipes and you'll soon forget any cravings for slim jims and twinkies, (I used to love them!) Want true healthcare reform? Want to save this nation $billions in unnecessary medical procedures? Ask McD's for seasoned veggies on the dollar menu and $8 burgers... Dr. B


does this include Rose wines???

Stephen Russell
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