Ageing and a low life expectancy are caused, at least partly, by oxidative stress, said researchers from the University of ErlangenNuremberg in Germany.
The study, published in the journal Nature Chemistry, discovered that zinc can activate an organic molecule that helps to protect against oxidative stress.
"However, any alcohol content whatsoever would destroy the positive effects of this combination," said Ivanovi-Burmazovi.
Zinc is a trace mineral humans need in order to remain healthy.
Researchers, including those from Auburn University in the US, found that zinc can protect against the superoxide responsible for oxidative stress when taken together with a component found in foodstuffs such as wine, coffee, tea and chocolate.
This component is a hydroquinone group found in polyphenols -- the plant substances responsible for smell and taste, researchers said.
Zinc activates the hydroquinone groups, producing natural protection against superoxide, a byproduct of human cell respiration that damages the body's own biomolecules, for example, proteins or lipids, as well as the human genome.
Hydroquinone alone is not capable of breaking down superoxide.
If zinc and hydroquinone combine, however, a metal complex is created which imitates a superoxide dismutase enzyme (SOD).
These enzymes protect the body from the degradation processes caused by oxidation and have an antioxidative effect.
In this way, the superoxide can be metabolised and damage to the organism prevented; oxidative stress is avoided.
For the first time, the function of this enzyme has been copied without reverting to redox-active transition metals such as manganese, iron, copper or nickel.
While the metals could also have an antioxidative effect, any positive effects are quickly outweighed by the fact that if too much is taken, they can increase oxidative stress.
Zinc is much less toxic than the transition metals, making it possible to create new medication or supplements with considerably fewer side effects, researchers said.
It would also be plausible to add zinc to food containing hydroquinone naturally to boost health, they said.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)