A compound found in red wine can help to combat the effects of aging, new research suggests.
Resveratrol, which exists in the skin of red grapes and gives the fruit its colour, could stop brain cells from breaking down as we get older, scientists claim.
The naturally-occurring compound shares many of the protective benefits of a low calorie diet and exercise, experiments showed.
But before reaching for the bottle in your fridge, a glass of red wine doesn't contain enough of the compound to boost brain health.
However, the findings could lead to an 'elixir of youth' based solely around the miracle ingredient.
Professor Gregorio Valdez, of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, believes a 'fountain of youth' pill is getting closer.
He said: 'We all slow down as we get older. Gait, balance issues and impaired motor coordination contribute to health problems, accidents, lack of mobility and a lower quality of life.
'We work on identifying molecular changes that slow down motor deficits that occur with aging. I believe we are getting closer to tapping into mechanisms to slow age induced degeneration of neuronal circuits.'
Resveratrol has previously been shown to help insects live longer, by mimicking the effects of calorie restriction. It is also credited with a host of other health benefits, from staving off heart disease and preventing bowel cancer.
Found in dark grapes, the compound has also managed to extend the lifespan of baker's yeast by up to 80%.
It belongs to a well known group of plant compounds in fruit, vegetables and olive oil called polyphenols, known to help fight cancer and heart disease.
Researchers from the university studied two year old mice - the equivalent of around 70 in human terms. They were treated with resveratrol for 12 months for the study, which was published in The Journals of Gerontology.
The compound was found to protect the rodents' brain synapses from the wear and tear of aging, an early feature of Alzheimer's disease in humans.
These are essential for voluntary movement because they relay motor commands that flow from neurons in the spinal cord to muscles.
Professor Valdez said: 'In wine, resveratrol is in such small amounts you could not drink enough of it in your life to have the benefits we found in mice given resveratrol.
'These studies are in mice and I would caution anyone from blasting their bodies with resveratrol in any form.
'The next step is to identify the mechanism that enables resveratrol to protect synapses.
'If we know the mechanism, we can modify resveratrol or look for other molecules that are more effective at protecting the synapses.'
Metformin, a drug used to fight type 2 diabetes, was also found to have similar effects on muscles, but not the brain.