Resveratrol Supplements: What Dr Oz Won't Tell You Pt 3

In the previous article in this series, we discussed how resveratrol supplements are supported by stacks of mostly irrelevant research. Literally anyone with a scientific database can cook up a good (and probably misleading) story about why to use resveratrol. In this article, we cut through the jungle and offer the real evidence supporting of resveratrol supplements. At the end, I'll invite you to make the call about whether that makes the grade for you.

As usual, the most relevant scientific experiments for you were done in people. Unfortunately, we don't have good data from human about resveratrol yet, and who knows when we will. For now, we're stuck with mouse data. The mouse data, however, offers some compelling facts.

Resveratrol supplements anti cancer story: In progress
A large number of studies have looked at the effects of resveratrol on various cancers in mouse (1). The results are not consistent, or positive, across the board. For instance, resveratrol may be more effective a preventing growth of tumors implanted in mouse lung than in preventing tumors from forming there (2, 3). The opposite is true for skin. Go figure. On the other hand, there is enough meaningful data to support clinical trials.

While cancer prevention and treatment are exciting opportunities, I think the data here stops short of being "news you can use." A Swiss study attempted to quantify the impact of resveratrol intake from various sources on the risk for developing breast cancer (4). The results suggested that resveratrol intake from grapes, but not from wine significantly reduced breast cancer risk. From that point, you could also conclude that some of the thousands of compounds in grapes and wine other than resveratrol produced the anti-cancer effect observed. But such is the unwieldy nature of wide-ranging epidemiology studies.

Resveratrol as an obesity cure?
One of the key claims supporting resveratrol supplements is that is mimics the effects of caloric restriction. In other words, if you reduce a mouse's caloric intake by about 40%, then it will consistently live longer and be healthier. While there some argue that this effect translates to humans, the evidence is still sparse (5). Cutting your caloric intake by 40% doesn't sound very attractive either.

Fortunately, resveratrol has been proposed to do the same thing as caloric restriction--- extend lifespan. This theory was just a theory until a landmark study with mice was published in Nature in 2006. In this study, Baur et al showed that when mice on a high calorie diet were fed a stiff dose of resveratrol (equiv of about 1.5 g/day for a human, which is quite a bit, but not unreasonable), they lived longer and healthier than their unsupplemented, but equally obese, counterparts (6). That last point is notable: the resveratrol supplemented mice were measurably healthier and longer-lived, but not skinnier.

At least for mice, resveratrol supplementation also appears to increase aerobic capacity and cardio-fitness. In a study with much higher doses of resveratrol, Lagouge et al found that mice on high calorie diets showed improved fitness measurements, like VO2-max (7).

But what about healthy mice?
In a follow-up study, Pearson et al showed that healthy mice, by contrast, did not live longer when fed resveratrol (8). These mice did, however, experience a number of the benefits of caloric restriction like improved bone density, better motor coordination, and delayed cataract formation.

What does it all mean?
Without human studies, we're still in the dark. But with that said, high, but not unreasonable doses of resveratrol supplements make measurable improvements in the health of mice. So yes, something is happenening here. Is it preventing cancer? Tough to say. A cure for aging? That's a tall order. But is it doing something? Yes, probably something.

As always, you can decide for yourself. I would still recommend caution when supplementing with this compound. Remember, when we talk about beneficial doses of resveratrol, we are way out of the range of what you get from drinking wine.

In the next series of articles, I describe some more reasons to be cautious about resveratrol supplements. For instance, high doses of resveratrol interfere with your liver enzymes and have estrogenic properties. Read on for more information.

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1. Bishayee, A. "Cancer prevention and treatment with resveratrol: from rodent studies to clincal trials." Cancer Prevention Res. 2 (2009) 409-18.
2. Hecht, SS, Kenney, PMJ, Wang, M, et al. "Evaluation of butylated hydroxyanisole, myo-inositol, curcumin, esculetin, resveratrol, and lycopene as inhibitors of benzo[a]pyrene plus 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone-induced lung tumorigeneisis in A/J mice." Cancer Lett. 137 (1999) 123-30.
3. Kimura, Y, Okuda, H. "Resveratrol isolated from Polygonum cuspidatum root prevents tumor growth and metastasis to lung and tumor-induced neovascularization in Lewis lung carcinoma-bearing mice." J Nutr. 131 (2001) 1844-9.
4. Levi, F, Pasche, C, Lucchine, F, et al "Resveratro and breast cancer risk." Eur J Cancer Prev. 14 (2005) 139-42.
5. Heilbronn, LK, de Jonge, L, Frisard, MI, et al "Effect of 6-month calorie restriction on biomarkers of longevity, metabolic adaptation, and oxidative stress in overweight individuals: a randomized controlled trial." JAMA 295 (2006) 1539-48.
6. Baur, JA, Pearson, KJ, Price, NL, et al. "Resveratrol improves health and survival of mice on a high-calorie diet." Nature 444 (2006) 337-42.
7. Lagouge, M, Argmann, C, Gerhart-Hines, Z, et al. "Resveratrol improves mitochondrial function and protects against metabolic disease by activating SIRT1 and PGC-1a." Cell 127 (2006) 1109-22.
8. Pearson, KJ, Baur, JA, Lewis, KN, et al. "Resveratrol delays age-related deterioration and mimics transcriptional aspects of dietary restriction without extending lifespan." Cell Metab 8 (2008) 157-68.