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L’Chaim

The latest news from Harvard Medical School appears to confirm something that rabbis and French chefs have been saying for centuries: Red wine is good for you.

According to a study by Harvard scientists, announced this week in the online journal Nature, red wine contains a chemical that mimics the life-extending qualities of a low-calorie diet. So far they have only tested it on yeast and a limited sample of flies and worms, but results are encouraging. Yeast cells live as much as 80% longer when fed a dose of the compound known as resveratrol. Some of the researchers are so impressed that they’ve taken to drinking a glass of red wine a day, even before they finish a current round of tests on monkeys.

The tests are based on the discovery in 1991 that reducing daily calorie intake triggers a gene — at least in mice — that’s designed to defend the body against starvation. A moderate caloric reduction, without a cutback in essential nutrients, seems to make mice live as much as 30% longer. Scientists have been searching ever since for a chemical that would stimulate the starvation gene without reducing calories. They think they’ve found it in red wine. Some of the scientists involved suspect the chemical explains why France, with its high rate of wine consumption, has a relatively long life expectancy despite its high-fat diet.

The approach of the Jewish High Holy Day season, with its concentrated series of festive toasts, libations and schmaltz-soaked meals, provides an obvious opportunity to test the findings on a willing human public.

Those who haven’t made a habit in the past of reciting Kiddush throughout the holiday season, which begins with Rosh Hashana on September 26 and ends three weeks later with Simchat Torah, are invited to take the plunge next month — in the interests of science, of course. Anyone who can still find the keyboard afterward is invited to share results with the Forward.

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