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Is Resveratrol Over Hyped?
James Meschino DC, MS, ROHP
I find the media coverage of natural health interventions most puzzling at the best of times, but none more puzzling than the on-going media attention given to the potential for resveratrol to extend human lifespan.
Resveratrol is a chemical found in the skin of grapes and in red wine. Animal experiments demonstrate that it exhibits anticancer and anti-inflammatoryeffects, as well as blood sugar-lowering effects,and beneficial cardiovascular effects. One human study showed that very high doses of resveratrol supplementation moderately reduced high blood sugar. The daily dosage was 3000-5000 mg, administered in a proprietary formula that claimed to enhance biovailability (1).
Resveratrol and Longevity: Don’t Get Your Hope Up
Animal studies have also shown that resveratrol also affects longevity genes in some organisms, which help extend lifespan to some degree. The affected genes are sirtuin genes. Low calorie diets are shown to increase synthesis of sirtuin proteins when these genes are turn-on (up-regulated), which leads to longer lifespan and other life preserving cellular activities. Animal studies show that a number of naturally-occurring substances also turn-on sirtuin genes and, of these, resveratrol is one of the more potent ones (2).
How this translates into human longevity is completely unknown. Many natural and synthetic agents do amazing things in animal studies, but when tested in humans do not produce the same or similar outcome. In recent years alone we have seen countless experimental drugs that contain or reverse cancer in animal studies, which later showed dismal outcomes when applied in human cancer trials.
As the New York Times reported, “Scientists caution that results involving animals often do not translate into drugs that work in humans. And the experiments conducted so far have been based on a level of resveratrol consumption that would be impractical, to say the least — one involved the equivalent of drinking 100 bottles of red wine a day, while a later study brought that down to about 35 (3).
The Bottom Line
At this time there is not a trace of evidence that resveratrol supplementation has the potential to extend human lifespan. All the media attention about resveratrol in recent years (including a 60 Minutes TV segment) has prompted many consumers to take resveratrol supplements as part of their efforts to live longer and healthier.
What I find problematic is the fact that there is an arsenal of other supplements that have been proven in human clinical studies to produce exceptionally important health comes in regards to the prevention of cancer and other degenerative diseases, and which help better manage numerous health conditions from Acne to Warts. Yet, the media seldom covers these legitimate studies. Rather, they waste TV time and print space creating hype and hope about yet unproven agents like resveratrol. It’s a shame they don’t provide regular updates on legitimate studies, where supplements are being shown, almost on a weekly basis, to provide important health outcomes in peer-reviewed clinical studies.
- New York Times – August 21, 2012 – http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/subjects/r/resveratrol/index.html