The Daily Telegraph reported that the substance, called piceatannol, delays the generation of young fat cells and prevents them from growing into mature fat cells.
The compound blocks insulin's ability to activate genes that carry out further stages of fat cell formation.
The heart-healthy agent found in the grape-based beverage is also thought to protect the body from heart and neurodegenerative diseases and cancer.
The groundbreaking research was carried out at Purdue University.
Lead researcher Dr. Kee Hong Kim said, "In the presence of piceatannol, you can see delay or complete inhibition of young fat cells.
"Piceatannol alters the timing of gene expressions, gene functions and insulin action during adipogenesis -- the process in which young fat cells become mature fat cells.
Kim, assistant professor of food science at the university, added, "We are now testing our idea using animal model obesity to see if it has the same beneficial functions.
"We need to work on improving the stability and solubility of piceatannol to create a biological effect."
The compound is similar in structure to resveratrol -- a supplement sold in the U.K. last year to combat disease -- and is also found in grapes, blueberries and passion fruit.
The research was published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
From the April 13, 2012, Prepared Foods’ Daily Update