Bill was recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and was trying to control his blood sugar as much as possible with nutritional supplements. Several supplements proved helpful, including chromium, vitamin D, and biotin. However, he still needed to take a glucose-controlling medication prescribed by his physician.
Then Bill happened to read about resveratrol, an antioxidant that seems to increase longevity. He knew that diabetes would accelerate aging because of tissue damage from high levels of blood sugar and insulin. So he started taking resveratrol supplements, 100 mg in the morning and another 100 mg in the evening. To his pleasant surprise, his fasting blood sugar decreased 10 mg/dL, a change that moved him from being diabetic to prediabetic. Because of this improvement, he was able to lower his medication requirements.
THE BASICS: Resveratrol (pronounced res-vair-uh-traul) is an antioxidant found in small amounts in purple grapes, red wine, blueberries, and other fruits. What distinguishes it from all other antioxidants is its ability to promote health or longevity in a wide range of animals, from microscopic worms to human beings. In animal studies, resveratrol increases life expectancy—even when animals eat a junk food diet. It also appears to have some benefits in regulating blood sugar and reducing the risk of heart disease.
ALIAS: Resveratrol is a polyphenolic antioxidant, part of a large family of related chemicals found in the skin of fruits. Research originally focused on resveratrol extracted from red wine,
but most resveratrol supplements now come from Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum).
HOW RESVERATROL WORKS: Resveratrol increases the activity of SIRT1, a key gene involved in longevity in numerous species, including humans. By boosting SIRT1 activity, resveratrol has many collateral benefits in reducing the risk of age-related diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Unfortunately, almost all of the research has been done in test tubes, and with yeast, worms, fruit flies, fish, and mice—not people. That said, the single human study with resveratrol found promising benefits.
HEALTH BENEFITS: Resveratrol seems to benefit several age-related health problems.
BACKGROUND CHECK: Resveratrol was first isolated from plants in 1940. It didn’t attract attention for its antiaging properties until the 1990s.
GLEANINGS: Fresh purple grape skins provide 50 to 100 mg of resveratrol per gram; one quarter pound of grapes should provide more than 8,000 mg of resveratrol.
HEADS UP: The pharmaceutical industry is taking resveratrol very seriously. In 2007, drug giant GlaxoSmithKline paid $720 million to buy Sirtris Pharmaceuticals. Sirtris researches resveratrol and has been trying to develop synthetic versions of the chemical.
WHAT YOU SHOULD TAKE: A recent study found impressive benefits from the equivalent of about 300 mg daily of resveratrol. That amount can still be pricey as a supplement, so a reasonable compromise might be taking 100 mg of resveratrol as a single supplement, or with a high-potency multivitamin or multi-antioxidant formula.
Product Examples (from left to right)
A few standouts in the resveratrol supplement category include Olympian Labs Clinical Resveratrol, Jarrow Formulas Resveratrol Synergy (with resveratrol, vitamin C, grape seed, and green tea extract), and Source Naturals Resveratrol.