September 7/Edmonton, Alberta/University of Alberta -- The antioxidant resveratrol, which is commonly found in red wine and grapes, may significantly reduce an individual's chances of developing metabolic syndrome, a collection of cardio-metabolic risk factors that often leads to type 2 diabetes, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Alberta tested the effectiveness of the antioxidant in a group of low-birth weight lab mice. These rodents frequently put on weight rapidly after birth in order to catch up to a normal developmental stage. However, this can cause metabolic changes that may predispose them to type 2 diabetes. The same effect happens in human babies.

The researchers reported in the journal Diabetes that low-birth weight baby mice fed diets rich in resveratrol were significantly less likely to develop metabolic syndrome, a condition marked by insulin resistance, high blood pressure and cholesterol and excess belly fat. The condition is a well known risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

Jason Dyck, who led the investigation, said that when a fetus' growth is restricted in the uterus, it may cause genetic changes that alter the way the individual's body stores calories. After months of developing in a nutrient poor environment, the body may start to store away calories that would otherwise be burned.

Based on the team's findings, Dyck suggested that resveratrol may counteract the effects of these genetic changes, helping low-birth weight infants deal with excess calories in a more healthy manner.

The antioxidant has frequently been in the news in recent years, largely because numerous studies have shown it may support healthy cardiovascular function and brain health. The new findings suggest that resveratrol may also reduce a person's type 2 diabetes risk.