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Resveratrol Supplements: Do They Work?

The Story Behind Resveratrol Supplements

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Updated July 13, 2009

Supplements

Supplements

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Resveratrol supplements seem to be everywhere these days. I see online ads and famous people all talking about them as the “longevity pill” and the “fountain of youth.” Dr. Mehmet Oz, Oprah Winfrey and even Barbara Walters are out there talking about resveratrol supplements. What is the truth behind them? Are they worth it? Read on.

Resveratrol Supplements

Resveratrol is a substance found in red wine. In extremely high concentrations (the equivalent of 1000 bottles of red wine a day), resveratrol has been shown to combat age-related illness in mice and other animals in the laboratory. Now, everyone seems to be selling a resveratrol supplement and attempting to “cash in” on this new development in anti-aging science.

Resveratrol Supplements - The Truth

The simple truth behind resveratrol supplements is that there is no evidence that these work in humans. Studies are underway, and many very smart people believe that there is something in resveratrol that can help prevent some of the diseases of aging and possibly even extend life. But whether the resveratrol supplements on the market right now are the correct formulations is anyone’s guess.

Resveratrol - a $720 Secret

I think of it this way: A few years back, pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) bought a company called Sirtris for $720 million dollars. This is the company founded by Dr. Sinclair, one of the leading researchers on resveratrol. I think Glaxo is probably pretty good at determining the worth of a new line of research. I don’t think they would have bought Sirtris if all the research was really just about putting high, high concentrations of resveratrol in a supplement. Anyone can do that -- all you have to do is extract enough of it from grapes and other naturally occurring sources (or create it in a lab). GSK did not pay $720 million for that, they bought something else -- something they believe will revolutionize the treatment of age-related illnesses like diabetes. They are spending even more money developing those treatments because they believe they will be able to create a blockbuster drug. Now, I don’t think they would have done this if a simple supplement would do the same thing. In other words, I’m skeptical that resveratrol supplements can do everything they claim. All the websites on the resveratrol supplements point to studies that used different formulations and substances and then make a claim about the product that is being sold.

Resveratrol - Should I Take Some?

That is a harder question. There are some known problems with resveratrol. As with anything you put in your body in such high concentrations, there are likely to be interactions and problems depending on your situation. There is not a lot known right now about any side effects or drug interactions with resveratrol, but it would be a miracle if there were none. There are some indications that women with estrogen-sensitive cancers should avoid resveratrol, as well as some thinking that resveratrol can interfere with medications like calcium channel antagonists. There is also the issue of cost -- these pills cost $2 to $4 per daily dose. But on the flip side, they promise healthy aging. So this is a tough decision. You are going to have to research each of your medical conditions and medications, and speak to your doctor, to determine if there might be problem. Then, of course, there is deciding if it's worth your money. Personally, I’ll wait until more research comes out.

Sources:

Barger JL, Kayo T, Vann JM, Arias EB, Wang J, et al. 2008 A Low Dose of Dietary Resveratrol Partially Mimics Caloric Restriction and Retards Aging Parameters in Mice. PLoS ONE 3(6): e2264. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002264

Wine and Heart Health. National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus.

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