The Health Benefits of Resveratrol
In our last article, The Science Behind Resveratrol,
we learned about Trans-Resveratrol and its strong antioxidant capabilities. In this article things start to get exciting as we dive into
some of the potential anti-aging and longevity aspects of Resveratrol.
What is this I Hear about Resveratrol Being the Fountain of Youth?
Ah the wonders of marketers, always good for taking some complex scientific issue and boiling it down to one over simplified
statement, like - "Resveratrol The Fountain of Youth". Let's back up a little and dig deeper into what, if any, impact resveratrol may
have on aging and longevity.
The French Paradox, Red Wine and Resveratrol
In 1992, Dr. Serge Renaud coined the phrase "French Paradox". As we discussed in our
Big Picture Article on Resveratrol scientist have
been trying to unlock the mystery of the French Paradox for years. The French have a diet very high in fat and tend to
smoke more than Americans, but the French have a very low rate of heart disease. In recent
years, the theory has been that the red wine the French drink has a lot to do with their low rate of heart disease.
Moderate alcohol consumption has been consistently associated with a 20-30% reduction in coronary heart disease risk, but the reason
why alcohol and wine have this effect is not clear.
As scientist started to look closer at the extensive assortment of polyphenols in Red Wine, one particular compound drew great interest -
Dr. David Sinclair, the GodFather of Resveratrol Research
While Resveratrol had been discovered in the 1940's and well researched in the 1990's, it was the work of Dr. David Sinclair
of Harvard Medical School in 2003 that put Resveratrol at the forefront of scientific research.
In 2003, David Sinclair found that Resveratrol can improve the life span of yeast cells by as much as 70%. In the next year,
they determined that worms and flies lived nearly 30 percent longer. In 2006, Italian Researchers found that Resveratrol extended the
lifespan of fish by over 55 percent longer. To find a natural substance
that could prolong life was a true scientific breakthrough.
In November 2006, a team of researchers led by David Sinclair and Joseph Baur at the Harvard Medical School and by Rafael de Cabo at the
National Institute on Aging published an article in the journal Nature. The results were nothing short of amazing.
They found that Resveratrol reduced the risk of death from a high calorie (HC) diet by 31%. In addition, mice fed Resveratrol actually improved
their motor skills as they got older. In effect, they showed that Resveratrol given orally to a mammal could prolong life and reduce the risks
associated with a high calorie diet.
Dr. Sinclair concludes:
"This study shows that an
orally available small molecule [resveratrol] at doses achievable in humans can
safely reduce many of the negative consequences of excess caloric
intake, with an overall improvement in health and survival."
- "Resveratrol improves health and survival of mice on a high-calorie diet", Nature Magazine, Nov. 2006
Let's Dig Deeper into the Dr. Sinclair Harvard Study
In the study there were three groups of mice. The first group had a standard diet (SD). The second group had a high calorie (HC) diet, with
60% of the calories coming from fat. The third group had the same HC diet, but also received an oral dosage of Resveratrol (HCR group).
It is widely accepted that a high calorie diet can lead to numerous health issues. On the other hand, severe calorie restriction has been
shown to increase lifespan and decrease diseases. The problem is that obesity is on the rise worldwide, so our calorie consumption is
going up, not down - and this creates many of the health issues.
Back to the study, the first thing the researchers noted was that mice on the HC diet were not doing well. As expected, they died earlier and
had more disease. This simply confirmed that a high calorie diet is not healthy, and can lead to disease and premature death.
Things got very interesting when they started to look at the HCR group (High Calorie and Resveratrol). The mice who got resveratrol with
their high calorie diet were not dying and were not getting sick. In fact, their motor skills were improving with age. In the end,
the health of the HCR group looked very much like that of the mice on the Standard Diet
A substance that you could take and reverse the effects of a high calorie diet, this was a significant breakthrough.
How Did Resveratrol Combat the Negative Effects of a High Calorie Diet?
To answer this question we first need to learn a little more about the role of calorie consumption and aging. We of course need to eat to
survive, but the truth is we all eat well beyond the minimum amount our body needs to survive. A number of chain reactions occur in the body
as we burn all the calories we take in. The cumulative effect of these reactions over the course of our life can lead to
numerous diseases and premature death. If you are reading this as your eating something... sorry to ruin your meal!
On the other side of the equation, reducing caloric intake by about 40% below that of ad libitum-fed animals (caloric
restriction) is the most robust and reproducible way to delay age related diseases and extend lifespan in mammals. So, we know that
severe calorie restriction can extend lifespan, the question is why? One of the most popular theories has to do with some
funny little genes called Sirtuins.
What is a Sirtuin and SIRT1?
In mammals, seven Sirtuin genes have been identified (SIRT1 - SIRT7). These tiny Sirtuins have some amazing capabilities to regulate our
body. SIRT1 is believed to regulate glucose and insulin production, fat metabolism, and cell survival - not bad for one little gene.
One theory is that Calorie Restriction triggers the release of the Sirtuin 1 (SIRT1) and it is the SIRT1 which is responsible for all the
health benefits of calorie restriction. Dr. Sinclair believed that if he could find a substance that triggered SIRT1, he might be able to
trick the body into believing it was under going severe calorie restriction, even when the mice were eating huge meals.
Dr. Sinclair screened over 20,000 substances in test tube tests to see if they could increase SIRT1. In the end, the substance that showed
the most promise in the test tube tests was Resveratrol.
So, Resveratrol Increases SIRT1 Levels?
Maybe. Dr. Sinclair's study clearly showed that mice fed a high calorie diet and Resveratrol lived longer and healthier than mice on just a
high calorie diet. It is a strong theory that the way Resveratrol pulled off this magic was by increasing SIRT1 levels, but that is just
a theory. It is very possible that Resveratrol works in a number of different pathways to produce its health benefits. Another way Resveratrol
may work is by increasing Mitochondria.
What in the World is Mitochondria?
Every cell in our body has these amazing little cellular structures called mitochondria. The mitochondria are responsible for
converting the nutrients from the food we eat into energy. Yes, the mitochondria have the daunting task of providing energy
for every cell in our body, so we can eat, move, think, talk, breathe, etc.
As we age the mitochondria can be destroyed and damaged and this leads to a host of problems. Dr. Sinclair, believing that Resveratrol may
help repair damaged mitochondria, did an analysis of the liver of the mice to check for mitochondria content. Sure enough, the liver of the
HCR (high calories resveratrol) mice had considerably more mitochondria than the livers of the HC mice.
So, What are the Health Benefits of Resveratrol?
Based on the current research (which at points does conflict), here is a quick snapshot of the some of the potential health
benefits of resveratrol (Trans-Resveratrol):
- Shown to prolong the lifespan of mice and other animals*
- Mimics calorie restriction to provide longevity/anti-aging potential*
- Helps promote healthy heart and cardiovascular function*
- Maintains Healthy Blood Sugar Levels*
- May Increase Mitochondria Levels and Cellular Energy*
- Boosts Immune System*
- Anti-Inflammatory Support*
- Reduces signs of aging*
- Boosts Energy Levels and Endurance*
- Increases Muscle Tone*
- Promotes Healthy Sleep*
- Maximum Antioxidant Protection*
Did I See Resveratrol on the News the Other Night?
Probably! After the Harvard Medical Study came out, the major media jumped all over the story and the potential for resveratrol to
increase lifespan. In our next article, we take a look at what the media really said about Resveratrol and work to separate the fact
from the fiction.