Red wine may have more health benefits than previously believed, a new study has found. A compound present in the beverage activates a body response usually used to relieve stress.

Resveratrol has been credited before with benefiting human health, including reduced risk of heart disease, promoting longer lifespans, and aiding the battle against some cancers. Some recent studies have also shown resveratrol can ease cognitive decline, and even protect against hearing loss. The natural phenol is found in red wine, as well as in the skin of dark grapes.

Some researchers have carried out studies which appear to call some of the reported health benefits of resveratrol into question. One paper concluded that people who consumed large amounts of the compound were just as likely to suffer from heart disease and cancer as the general population.

Scripps Research Institute researchers investigated resveratrol, and found the chemical stimulates a gene normally reserved for response to stress. This action activates additional genes, which protects cells from damage caused by aging.

The original goal of the newest study was to determine if resveratrol actually promotes good health, or if studies that found benefits were examining cases where doses were unrealistically high.

An enzyme known as type TyrRS, a type of tRNA synthetase that bonds with the amino acid tyrosine, was examined by researchers studying the chemical. Resveratrol is known to behave in a manner similar to tyrosine.

The TyrRS-resveratrol combination was found to trigger the gene PARP-1 and other genes, including FOXO3A and SIRT6, known to aid long life spans, as well as p53, a cancer suppressor. This benefit was found to take place, even in mice supplied with the equivalent of two glasses a day of red wine. This is a thousand times lower than utilized in some studies.

"Based on these results, it is conceivable that moderate consumption of a couple glasses of red wine (rich in resveratrol) would give a person enough resveratrol to evoke a protective effect via this pathway," Mathew Sajish of the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), said.

Resveratrol evolved hundreds of millions of years ago in plants, before the rise of the world's first animals.

"We think this is just the tip of the iceberg. We think there are a lot more amino-acid mimics out there that can have beneficial effects like this in people. And we're working on that now," Sajish stated in a press release.

Study of the effects of resveratrol at repairing damage from aging was detailed in the journal Nature

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