Resveratrol: Research, Raves and Reservations

 

Based on the posts: “The Wine News I've Been Waiting For” on the website “Fermentation: The Daily Wine Blog”; “The wonders of resveratrol” on the website “Now with added science”; “Resveratrol Doubles Endurance” and “Tannins, Not Resveratrol, Key to Heart Health” on the website SportsGeezer.com

 

Edited (with Introduction) by Dr. Don Rose, Writer, Life Alert

 

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Is Resveratrol the new “wonder drug”? Is this substance (an ingredient in red wine) the key to concocting a Fountain of Youth? With all the media attention, it may seem that way. Perhaps it’s a coincidence that the term “Resveratrol” is similar to “reversal” – but recent research and opinion does suggest that Resveratrol can help prevent or perhaps even reverse the aging process. However, some people have reservations regarding the raves about Resveratrol. While some studies indicate great potential, some critics are not convinced. One thing all can agree on: the matter deserves greater investigation; this article discusses these issues. --Don Rose

 

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A Tale of Mice and Men

Research published in Nature in 2006 provides evidence that the flavonoid Resveratrol (a naturally occurring compound found in grapes and red wine as well as nuts) can improve health and survival in obese mice on a high calorie diet. The mice given Resveratrol lived longer, had fewer signs of developing diabetes and maintained their motor skills with age.

The researchers proposed that Resveratrol consumption leads to longer life-spans mainly by increasing sirtuin activity. Sirtuins are enzymes that are hypothesized to play a key role in an organism’s response to stress; they have been implicated in increased life-span during calorie restriction.

The key question is whether this promising study in mice can translate into similar benefits for humans; this will be discussed later.

Extending Endurance, Eluding Exhaustion

Resveratrol may not only help us live longer but also help us run faster longer. The New York Times reported that when researchers gave resveratrol to lab mice, the mice were able to run twice as far as resveratrol-free mice before collapsing from exhaustion. The research, conducted at the Institute of Genetics and Molecular and Cellular Biology in France and published in Cell, suggests that resveratrol-influenced mice also have energy-charged muscles and a reduced heart rate, just as trained athletes do.

Tannins May Be Greater Guardian of Heart Health

As promising as these Resveratrol studies sound, the most life-extending element in red wine may not be resveratrol at all, but rather tannins. Scientific American reported on a study of French census data, which compared regions with unusually long-lived men to the wine produced in those areas. The scientists, who felt that the amount of resveratrol needed to influence the health of humans was far greater than what could be acquired from drinking wine, found that the long-lived regions produce local wines that are as much as four times richer in procyanidins (condensed tannins that suppress production of the peptide responsible for hardening arteries) than other wine. Why? Because, according to the SciAm report, allowing the grapes to linger on the vine for as long as possible and then leaving them to ferment for as long as four weeks (compared with the more typical one-week period of major wineries, which keeps the level of harsh tannins low) enables vintners in these regions to produce ample amounts of procyanidin.

Studies Spur Sales

It should come as no surprise that, as WineBusiness.com reported, sales of red wine increased significantly since the release of the results of a Harvard study that showed out of shape mice fed high doses of Resveratrol don't seem to suffer from their unfit state. The report of this study seemed to show up all over, including within high circulation newspapers and magazines. It followed a more-than-decade-long stream of medical studies that show an apparent link between wine consumption and healthy living. However, this is the first report since the 60 Minutes show on the "French Paradox" back in 1991 that really gained steam in the media.

Did people understand that you'd almost have to drink yourself to death in order to take in the same amount of resveratrol as the mice were fed? That appeared to be beside the point. What consumers took away from the news was a simple message: wine, and red wine in particular, is good for you. The result of this marketing message: in the four weeks after the results of the study came out, there were significant sales increases in red wine in nearly every measurable category, according to AC Nielsen statistics. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat stated that local wineries reported their best sales in history in November 2006. Perhaps not equal to the monumental sales increases after the 60 Minutes airing, but it was the kind of sales increases that gets everyone's attention.

Conclusion

It is not proven that we can get the same benefits as mice did in the aforementioned Resveratrol studies, because drinking an equivalent amount of red wine may be too difficult for us humans. Some have pointed out that a person would need to drink about 100 glasses of wine a day to match the dose given to mice in the 2006 Nature study, and such high doses may certainly damage health in humans.

Moderation is key, according to many experts, who advocate one or two glasses of red wine as a good daily ballpark to shoot for. However, the question then becomes: can just a couple of glasses a day cut it with regards to gaining any health benefits?

The best solution may lie in the near future, when supplemental methods of getting the amount of Resveratrol needed for improved health will hopefully become widely available and affordable -- perhaps becoming as easy as visiting your local vitamin store or supplement website. Health benefits might come from resveratrol-like synthetic compounds that can stimulate sirtuins, and hence provide similar benefits as those seen in mice that were part of the Nature experiment.

Meanwhile, a one-to-two glass a day red wine regimen seems a good way to start, based on the results and conclusions that have been published and publicized thus far. Eventually, combining such a regimen with Resveratrol supplements may enable us to extend the healthy range of the human lifespan in ways we once only dreamed about.


 

The article above is covered by a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License. The information provided is, to the best of our knowledge, reliable and accurate. However, while Life Alert always strives to provide true, precise and consistent information, we cannot guarantee 100 percent accuracy. Readers are encouraged to review the original article, and use any resource links provided to gather more information before drawing conclusions and making decisions.

 

Dr. Don Rose writes books, papers and articles on computers, the Internet, AI, science and technology, and issues related to seniors.

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