Resveratrol: Fountain of Youth or Waste of Money

By Mike Howard

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Red wine drinkers have been toasting to better health and longer life with all of the news pieces on the miracle that is resveratrol – a component of red grape skin and some other fruits.

Let’s sift through the claims and hype and see where the dust settles and if it will save you from plastic surgery…..It was hard to ignore the headlines a couple of years ago. Newswires were replete with suggestions that resveratrol could boost health and lengthen life. Read beyond the headlines a bit though and you realize that this is only good news if you are a middle aged, overweight mouse. Still, the results were dramatic – mice given resveratrol became much healthier and lived about 25% longer than the mice who didn’t get resveratrol (Nature, 2006).

Sounds impressive, but there are some eensy, weensie details that we need to consider before we run to the liquor store or supplement shops.

  • The longer lived mice received the equivalent of 20 bottles of wine/day worth of resveratrol.
  • Last year the researchers who published the 2006 study conducted another study on normal weight, middle aged mice that showed no difference in longevity (Cell Metabolism, 2008). Curiously this study did not make any headlines. It should be noted, however that there were positive health differences in the resveratrol group.
  • No human trials to date have been conducted on the effects of resveratrol and aging. There are 2 reasons for this, according to Bharar Aggarwal, a University of Texas researcher.

1. Cost – it would be very expensive to provide resveratrol to human subjects.
2. Companies that control the supply of resveratrol aren’t making it available to researchers because they are looking to haul in big bucks by turning into a drug.

  • The potential impact on resveratrol is still up in the air. There will be a study conducted by the National Institute on Aging – but the results won’t be available for a couple of years.
  • Whenever we look at studies on compound we must consider the “in vivo vs. in vitro” (test tube vs. body) question. The human body is complex and dynamic and will not often produce the same results as test tubes will.

Some Thoughts

Stay focused on the bigger picture of health. To quote Marion Nestle, when we take the nutrient out of the context of the food, we take the food out of the context of the diet and the diet out of the context of the lifestyle. Focus on whole foods, not the nutrients. Eat veggies, fruits and drink red wine in moderation – doing these things will likely help prolong your life and will definitely improve your health.

14 Comments

  1. Rana Weiser

    I agree to a certain extent ..when a person is not in an acute situation they should draw nutrients from whole food, but when in a seriously depleted situation concentrated whole organic berries, grapes etc. are extremely beneficial to rejuvenate the body quickly. I have used concentrated Resveratrol for that purpose for myself and loved ones and it has worked fantastic to bounce us out of dehydration and adrenal fatigue. I always keep some in my refrigerator for emergency purposes.

    Reply
  2. Jahn Laster

    “in vivo vs. in vitro” (test tube vs. body)
    should be
    “in vivo vs. in vitro” (body vs. test tube)

    You had it worded confusingly ; ]=

    Reply
  3. jamesthompson23

    “Yet another case of scientists finding one element of food and trying to validate why you should eat a whole ton of it for the health benefits of it. It totally skews things because in reality, you physically can’t eat/drink 20 bottles of red wine/day or eat 20 oranges’ worth of vitamin C per day, etc.”

    You do make a very good point, Spectra, but, in this case, I really do feel that resveratrol could be so much more. I think, with more research (we’re talking 10-20 years) it may give us a better understanding of how we age.

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  4. Edwin

    I don’t know why the author of this article is clearly against Resveratrol without actually doing more research into this subject.

    Resveratrol is very good indeed and there are many testimonials of people having excellent results taking resveratrol supplements.

    So next time investigate more.

    Reply
  5. Kami Gray

    Amen Cari! Forget the hype…common sense rules!

    Reply
  6. Mike H.

    Well summarized, Spectra!

    Reply
  7. Spectra

    Yet another case of scientists finding one element of food and trying to validate why you should eat a whole ton of it for the health benefits of it. It totally skews things because in reality, you physically can’t eat/drink 20 bottles of red wine/day or eat 20 oranges’ worth of vitamin C per day, etc. I’m more inclined to be of the mindset that food has a synergistic effect…when you start isolating nutrients and finding ways of just eating nutrients without the foods they’re found in, you lose a lot of the other benefits that you’d get from the whole foods themselves.

    So drink a glass of wine every so often and don’t worry about the resveratrol…just enjoy drinking it, like people have been doing for the past few thousand years.

    Reply
  8. Dr Anderson

    This article is full of misinformation. Specifically, the health benefits of resveratrol at dosages readily available in supplements such as Bioforte and Transmax. There are, in fact, numerous human trials going on now in which resveratrol’s ability to down regulate the bio markers of aging is being investigated and finally Biotivia is providing high quality resveratrol to researchers at Albert Einstein Medical School, UC Davis, the Canadian Health Ministry and many other researchers either at no charge or at a large discount for their human trials. The author might do well to stick to diet advice or whatever he has a bit more knowledge of.

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  9. Fit. J

    Pfft, red wine is still dope! How about accumulative long term effects? Maybe they can track long-time red wine drinkers with someone who doesn’t drink it at all or only occasionally, keeping the age, gender, physical activity etc as similar as possible.

    And those that are curious… try half a glass of red wine + VitC 30 mins before a workout. Great pumps!

    Reply
  10. R Flowers

    The longer lived mice received the equivalent of 20 bottles of wine/day worth of resveratrol.

    Not a problem… 🙂

    Reply
  11. Robert Stack

    Resveratrol can help you to lead a long and healthy life so says many
    doctors. Red wine alone does not supply enough resveratrol to achieve the
    full range of benefits because one glass of red wine has only about
    1mg of resveratrol and you need about 250mg/day. You need to take
    high potency resveratrol supplements to achieve the results documented
    in scientific studies.Resveratrol Supplements can also help you control
    your weight naturally by increasing energy, reducing cravings, and limiting
    your appetite.According to Wikipedia, Consumer Lab, an independent dietary
    supplement and over the counter products evaluation organization,
    published a report on 13 November 2007 on the popular resveratrol
    supplements. The organization reported that there exists a wide range
    in quality, dose, and price among the 13 resveratrol products
    evaluated. The actual amount of resveratrol contained in the
    different brands range from 2.2mg for Revatrol, which claimed to have
    400mg of “Red Wine Grape Complex”, to 500mg for Biotivia.com Transmax,
    which is consistent with the amount claimed on the product’s label.
    Prices per 100mg of resveratrol ranged from less than $.30 for
    products made by Biotivia.com, jarrow, and country life, to a high of
    $45.27 for the Revatrol brand.

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  12. David Rigas

    You can buy pure resveratrol now in pill form. Nobody is withholding resveratrol from the market.

    Reply
  13. Dr B

    You are on the right track here. This is a topic I have researched in some detail in writing “Age Gets Better with Wine”. Three are numerous studies documenting the benefits of moderate wine drinking, but none on the use of resveratrol in humans. The product that Sirtris is developing is a synthetic derivative of resveratrol which is considerably more potent and will probably find useful applications for cancer, diabetes, and other degenerative diseases so I wouldn’t write it off as a callow commercial enterprise without merit.

    Reply
  14. Cari from ditch diets

    Yadda yadda – another miracle substance which they’ll put in a pill form and get us gullible bunch to buy. For me I think I’ll stick to
    the odd glass of red wine,
    an active lifestyle,
    plenty of sleep,
    some hearty laughter
    living as stress-free as possible
    and eating as close to nature as possible.

    I’ve been taken in with enough hype to make me just a tad skeptical about all the miracle claims especially when there is a money-making opportunity in the making.

    Reply