Resveratrol is an antioxidant found in grapes, red wine, peanuts, chocolate and certain berries, and it has been credited with a large number of health benefits in various studies.
Thursday, May 13, 2014 (Medical News Today)
Now, however, a research team presents findings that question whether such benefits come from the compound.
The researchers, led by Dr. Richard D. Semba of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, publish their results in JAMA Internal Medicine.
For years, the Western world has marveled at the so-called French Paradox, which points to the low incidence of coronary heart disease in that population despite their high-cholesterol and high-saturated fat diet. This has been attributed to their regular intake of red wine, with its high levels of resveratrol and other polyphenols.
But this latest study, which assessed a large group of Italians – who consume a diet rich in resveratrol – found that they do not live longer and are just as likely to develop cardiovascular disease or cancer as individuals who consume smaller amounts of the compound.
“The story of resveratrol turns out to be another case where you get a lot of hype about health benefits that doesn’t stand the test of time,” says Dr. Semba. “The thinking was that certain foods are good for you because they contain resveratrol. We didn’t find that at all.”
The team used data on 783 men and women over the age of 65 who were part of the Aging in the Chianti Region Study from 1998 to 2009.
They measured chemical levels using mass spectrometry to analyze 24-hour urine samples looking for breakdown products of resveratrol.
Results showed that resveratrol concentration was not linked with inflammatory markers, cardiovascular disease, cancer or death.
Participants in the study were not taking resveratrol supplements, says the team, adding: “Although annual sales of resveratrol supplements have reached $30 million in the US alone, there is limited and conflicting human clinical data demonstrating any metabolic benefits of resveratrol.”
Though their study yielded negative results, Dr. Semba notes that other studies have shown that consuming red wine, dark chocolate and berries does have protective effects for the heart and reduces inflammation in certain people.
“It’s just that the benefits, if they are there, must come from other polyphenols or substances found in those foodstuffs,” he adds. “These are complex foods, and all we really know from our study is that the benefits are probably not due to resveratrol.”
The benefit is in the food – the wine, grapes and chocolate – not any one chemical substance. This is the kind of reductionist thinking that leads to the outrageous claims given to vitamin C in the 1970’s and more recently vitamin D.
We know that one glass of red wine, especially if consumed during a meal, actually enhances phase II liver detoxification. Unfortunately, the second glass (or any additional intake) dramatically impairs liver detoxification.
The French Paradox comes from the Framingham Study that is the basis for statin drug therapy. Researchers found that in the Gascony region of France, the local population eats goose liver and other high fat foods. They also live longer, healthier lives then the rest of the planet. Despite these findings, cardiologists developed this dogma about the need to lower everyone’s cholesterol with drugs. In fact, there were several areas in the world where no correlation between high fat intake and cardiovascular disease was found. Until recently, this data has largely been ignored by cardiologists and the American Heart Association.
Isolated nutrients have value to the nutritionist for treatment of specific health issues. Various forms of folic acid, vitamin B12 or iron are used to treat anemia. Vitamin B6 is used to support sulfur amino acid metabolism. However, resveratrol has no real benefit as an isolated nutrient. I commonly use grape seed extract, containing resveratrol for capillary fragility and phlebitis. But I have never recommended resveratrol as a stand alone supplement.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
There is no substitute for a good diet. Supplements are just that, a supplement to a good diet. Stay away from isolated nutrients, unless recommended by a qualified nutritionist for a specific health issue. Instead choose food based supplements like grape seed extract or cruciferous vegetable extract that contain all the phytochemicals grouped together as they are found in real food.