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What Is It: Sirtuins

September 28, 2008 Reviewed by Marta 0 Comments
Sirtuins are being heralded to be the next big thing for anti-aging (at least according to the head of research at beauty behemoth, Estee Lauder). Sirtuins and the story of how they came to be discovered are indeed fascinating. However, they remain somewhat illusive and potions that proclaim to utilize them have a strong whiff of emperor's new clothes.

It is well known that starving a mouse increases its longevity significantly. While the results for humans are thought to be far less dramatic, there are some brave (or age-obsessed) souls that reduce their calorific intake to something akin to the diet of a Japanese prisoner of war. Since, for me at least, a subsistence diet would make life too miserable to want to extend it, it makes a lot of sense to try to find a work around. Researchers have now found that calorific restriction triggers a biochemical pathway  that involves enzymes called sirtuins.

The main role of sirtuins is to regulate the activity of the genes responsible for metabolism, cell defense and reproduction. When food is scarce, the body's sirtuins go into self-preservation mode. What if you could activate sirtuins without starving yourself? Talk about having your cake and eating it too.

A sirtuin activator has been found in the form of resveratol, found in grapes and already known to be an effective antioxidant. No one seems to know if a topically applied activator really works. Also, while the antioxidant activity of resveratol is well-documented, there is also evidence that if exposed to ultraviolet light, resveratol increased DNA mutations.

The activator approach is taken by Estee Lauder with its Re-Nutriv Ultimate Youth Creme ($250) launched at the beginning of this year. Although the blurb says "powered by the youth molecule", this is basically a resveratol cream. However, the company claims it has stabilized the resveratol and it is time-released into the skin.

Some cosmetics, such as the REN Sirtuin Phytohormone Replenishing Cream, Mature 1.7 fl oz (50 ml) pictured above, claim that they actually contain sirtoins. This seems to be in the form of rice germ oil. Although this product is packed with good botanical ingredients, including wild yam, and omega 6, I remain unconvinced about the sirtuins.

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