By Jan Mabry

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Raise a toast to your waistline. A new study finds a certain chemical consumed when you drink a glass of red wine is not only good for your health, it can help overweight people burn fat.

According to scientists, ellagic acid retards the growth of fat cells, and slows down the formation of new ones. It also boosts the metabolism of fatty acids in the liver.

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It is no panacea, said scientist Neil Shay at Oregon State’s College of Agricultural Studies who co-authored the study. But burning more fat in the liver, improves liver function in overweight people.

Pinot Noir grapes (ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

Pinot Noir grapes (ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

In one 10-week trial, scientists fed high-fat “mouse chow” to mice. Half were also given extracts from Pinot noir grapes. The chubby mice who ate the grape extracts stored less liver fat and had lower blood sugar than mice who had only the fatty diet. The latter group also had higher levels of proteins known to metabolize fat and sugar in cells.

“The high-fat-fed mice developed fatty liver and diabetic symptoms — “the same metabolic consequences we see in many overweight, sedentary people,” Shay said.

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“If we could develop a dietary strategy for reducing the harmful accumulation of fat in the liver, using common foods like grapes,” Shay said, “that would be good news.”

Eating red grapes yields the same benefits as the red wine.

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The study was published in the January issue of the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.