Resveratrol, A cure for Aging? – The Evidence

There is a thriving industry that is pushing Resveratrol as the ultimate anti-aging cure. Even a recent Reuters news article makes the claim …

Resveratrol, a drug being developed by Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline and based on a compound found in red wine, has been shown in studies on mice to give them longer and healthier lives.

That claim is complete fiction, and is simply not true in any way. This is a modern form of snake oil, there is a lot of groundless chatter that has no evidence to back it up at all. A common claim is that its this compound that explains the French paradox (the observation that French people suffer a relatively low incidence of coronary heart disease, despite having a diet relatively rich in saturated fats ). However, while Resveratrol is indeed found in the skin of red grapes and is a constituent of red wine (which is a basic part of the French diet) it is apparently not in sufficient amounts to justify the claim.

Go to the Wikipedia article and you find claims of life extension in yeast, worms and fish, followed by hints that it will work in humans as well. Oh and apparently it will also cure cancer. So for many thats good enough, no evidence required, and thus we have a thriving industry flogging this stuff at inflated prices.

Randomly scan a few well known sites and you find truly outrageous fictional claims such as …

A new high-powered option for your body’s free- radical defenses! Resveratrol is one of nature’s most effective antioxidants for total-body free-radical protection.

the beneficial substance found in red wine. Our Resveratrol is concentrated to give you powerful antioxidant support.

The most effective and best-researched phytonutrient for maintaining and protecting health.

OK, lets ask a basic question, does it actually work, what evidence is there? A SENS foundation article states …

By far the most well-publicized possible CR mimetic ever was the phytoalexin polyphenol resveratrol, present in trace amounts in grapes and (famously) wine. Interest in resveratrol was initially sparked by research on Sir2, an NAD+-dependent histone deacetylase in the baker’s yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Reports in S. cerevisiae, C. elegans, and Drosophila melanogaster indicated that lifespan could be extended in these organisms by 30–50% by increased copy number or expression of the gene; because its activity was reponsive to the cellular NAD+:NADH ratio, and because of reports that life extension by CR-like dietary manipulation in S. cerevisiae and Drosophila required Sir2, it was hyypothesized that Sir2 activation might be a key mechanism of CR. Investigation of resveratrol as a CR mimetic began with a report that it was one of a small number of “sirtuin activating compounds (STAC)” identified in a screen using recombinant human SIRT1 (the human homolog) in vitro, and the hypothes was underscored by reports that administration of resveratrol extended life in the same range of lower organisms as had already been reported to respond to Sir2. Nearly all of these claims were later disputed, but significant  public and scientific interest had already been generated, and experiments in mice were initiated.

Interest increased dramatically by reports that high-dose resveratrol supplements partially normalized lifespan and various aspects of health and functionality in mice made obese and diabetic by a high-hydrogenated-coconut-oil diet. In the popular press, to a limited degree in the scientific literature, and especially in dietary supplement companies’ promotional materials, these results were often misconstrued as demonstrating actual extension of normal, youthful functionality and lifespan, leading to remarkably widespread interest and enthusiasm.

But finally, in 2008, the results of a lifespan study of 3 doses of resveratrol in normal, healthy mice were published. While some specific aspects of age-related deterioration were retarded in resveratrol-fed mice, survival and pathology were unaffected. Surprisingly, this negative result has had virtually no effect on media coverage, and mention of the result is (unsurprisingly) studiously avoided in promotional material.

Now this week we have an update that confirms this. The report a couple of days ago from the Interventions Testing Program (ITP) within the National Institute on Aging (NIA), a division of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), located in Baltimore, Maryland reads …

Resveratrol (at 300 and 1200 ppm food) and simvastatin (12 and 120 ppm) did not have significant effects on survival in male or female mice. … Our resveratrol data thus serve to confirm the absence of any effect of this agent on mouse life span, using doses two- to eightfold higher than the dose studied by Pearson and colleagues and using genetically heterogeneous mice of both sexes rather than male C57BL/6Nia mice alone.

 NIA's Interventions Testing Program (ITP)

For those who have difficulty parsing text, look closely at the graphs above. The mice on mega-doses of Resveratrol fared no better than the controls … its snake oil and does not work.

When faced with claims, demand evidence, not marketing hype. The sleazebags who manufacture the stuff have chosen to ignore the scientific evidence and still push it as a miracle anti-aging compound … be skeptical.

5 thoughts on “Resveratrol, A cure for Aging? – The Evidence”

  1. Yes, absolutely. JP illuminates that which I comprehend to be a ‘blatant contradiction’. Namely this; one cannot retard age-related deterioration while claiming no affect/effect upon survival!

  2. Well what about this:
    “While some specific aspects of age-related deterioration were retarded in resveratrol-fed mice, survival and pathology were unaffected. ”

    Specific aspects of age-related deterioration were retarded, and you think this is insignificant? What does this exactly mean? How might this work itself out in humans? The fact that the *mice* didn’t live longer doesn’t discount this initial start to the sentence as interesting, at least; don’t you think?
    Personally, I want to believe it has some health benefit. I just bought a three month supply!@#! :)

  3. I am no scientist, but…the study also covered simvastatin, and having no effect over longevity of the mice. This strongly suggests that lowering the levels of LDL cholesterol have no use for increasing lifespan.

    As pharmaceutical industry gains tons of money over cholesterol reducing drugs, these are really hot news. They should be regarded prior any patient receive a prescription of Zocor or Vytorin, even if in the claimed “Cholesterol danger zone” (LDL above 160)

    But leaves me with a doubt: if not effective to prolong life, Resveratrol could be useful to reduce LDL-cholesterol (and/or increase HDL-cholesterol, the said “good cholesterol”)? I’m wondering this as there are claims about its efficience, and the study also covered a usually prescribed cholesterol reducing drug (simvastatin), so…

  4. Is the door closed on resveratrol and longevity? Maybe lower doses work in a far superior way to higher doses. The uncontovertible fact is that red wine, consumed in the range of 3-5 glasses per day, produces unprecedented longevity. The French, despite a high-calorie, high-fat diet, are living longer than any other human society. The objective should have been to create a red wine pill, in the same dosage range of red wine solids as 3-5 glasses of red wine (180-300 mg), with all of the syngergistic properties of these combined molecules. A company that I head up, Longevinex, produced such a pill that was shown to activate 633 of 832 longevity genes in the same direction as a calorie restricted diet, the unequivocal way to prolong life. There is good science out there, for those who pursue it.


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