Once again, the public is being inundated with a media blitz about the next magic anti-aging miracle product. And once again the same old “high priests” of anti-aging are peddling their wares. Not a day goes by that I do not see splashed all over my computer screen the word Resveratrol along with the happy smiling faces of the likes of Oprah, Dr Oz and Dr Perricone. I am sure you have seen the media blitz as well, “Buy Resveratrol”, “Warning, Do Not Buy It”, and when you click on the warning it is merely one seller of the “Wonder Element” admonishing you to buy his brand and not the other guys brand. When is this madness going to stop and when are these brokers of anti-aging half-truths going to be more responsible and paint a complete picture about the products they hawk? Not any time soon that is for sure. So, since I sadly have no Resveratrol to sell, I can at least try to set the record straight and give you the facts. Let’s begin with a little chemistry lesson and learn a little about this compound.
It is is a potent member of the class of natural , plant derived polyphenolic compounds called stilbenes with the chemical formula 3,4′,5-trihydroxystilbene. According to Wikepedia, The element was originally isolated by Takaoka from the roots of white hellebore in 1940, and later in 1963, from the roots of the Japanese knotwood. However, it did not receive world wide attention until 1992 when it was found to be contained in significant concentrations in red wine and was believed to have cardio-protective properties that later became to be known as the “french paradox”. The “french paradox” simply put asked the question why the french lived as long as they did when they were drinking large amounts of red wine that was supposed to bad for you.
Resveratrol levels vary widely between various food groups. Other than red grapes, foods rich in this compound are raspberries, mulberries , bilberries, blueberries, and peanuts. Because this is a natural substance the concentration of of it contained in each particular plant product will vary between varieties as well as geographic location.
As with all organic compounds resveratrol exists in two forms, a trans and a cis isomer. An isomer is nothing more than the three dimensional configuration that a molecule has in space and has to do with the arrangement and bonding of the compounds’ carbon atoms. This is important because our bodies, over the course of evolution, have been programmed to absorb only certain three dimensional configurations of organic compounds, that is, the ability of our bodies to absorb nutrients is dependent on that particular compounds spatial configuration.
The next question to ask is how does resveratrol exert its health benefits? The single most important detail not to be overlooked when discussing the health benefits of this compound is the fact that all of the research and the results obtained have been performed on animals only. There is not a single report in the medical journals to show that resveratrol has any benefit whatsoever in human beings. To give a brief example of how the promoters of this wonder substance tell half-truths is a study done on mice where resveratrol interfered with all three stages of tumor development; initiation, promotion and progression. However, a study done at Marshall University and published in the J Nutrition showed that human melanoma skin cancer cell lines that were implanted into mice were unaffected by the elements use, and, in fact, high levels of this phyto-sterol tended to stimulate tumor cell growth. Strange how this bit information managed to be left out of the sales pitch. Anti-aging claims regarding the cardio protective and neuro-protective ability of resveratrol has been questioned in the Journal of Neuro-Chemical Research. Questions regarding the bio-availability, bio-transformation and synergism with other dietary factors as well as the mechanism of the antioxidant activity and risks inherent in possible pro-oxidant activity still remain unanswered.
The worst omission made by the celebrity gurus regarding this miracle substance is in regard to bio-availability and bio-transformation. All, and I repeat, all of the animal studies showing the positive aspects of this nutrient have been done using pure 100% concentrate. The problem is that it is virtually impossible to attain high enough levels of this compound in human beings when taken orally to exert results that were achievable in animal models. Although trans-resveratrol appears to be well absorbed when taken orally, its bio-availability is low because it is metabolized almost completely into respiratory-3-sulfate and respiratory nonbelligerents. Even if it was shown that these metabolites exerted a beneficial effect on the human body, which they have not, they are rapidly excreted in the urine. In fact, 77% of these metabolites are excreted within four hours.
I could go on and on quoting the medical literature and citing article after article that fails to show any benefit whatsoever that this PTO-nutrient exerts any benefits in human beings. I have tried to simplify the facts as best as could and hopefully the public will not fall for all the celebrity hype and scientific half-truths that surround this miracle substance. I only wish that there were something as a simple as pill that would cure disease and stop the aging process but I, like the rest of you, should remain skeptical about false claims and remember the old adage, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is”.