Resveratrol, a polyphenol compound found in certain plants, red wine grapes, Japanese Knotweed and chocolate, is considered to be a rich natural antioxidant. However, findings from a study examining Italians who consumed a diet rich in Resveratrol found that they lived no longer than and were just as likely to develop cardiovascular disease or cancer as those who ate or drank smaller amounts of the antioxidant.
According to Richard D. Semba, M.D., M.P.H., a professor of ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and leader of the study, “The thinking was that certain foods are good for you because they contain resveratrol. We didn’t find that at all.”
The international team of researchers studied the effects of aging in a group of people who live in the Chianti region of Italy over the course of 15 years. For the current study, the researchers analyzed 24 hours of urine samples from 783 people over the age of 65 for metabolites of Resveratrol. After accounting for such factors as age and gender, the people with the highest concentration of Resveratrol metabolites were no less likely to have died of any cause than those with no resveratrol found in their urine. The concentration of resveratrol was not associated with inflammatory markers, cardiovascular disease or cancer rates.
The study participants consisted of a random group of people living in Tuscany where supplement use is uncommon and consumption of red wine — a specialty of the region — is the norm. The study participants were not on any prescribed diet.
Despite the negative results, Dr. Semba said that studies have shown that consumption of red wine, dark chocolate and berries does reduce inflammation in some people and still appears to protect the heart. “It’s just that the benefits, if they are there, must come from other polyphenols or substances found in those foodstuffs,” he said. “These are complex foods, and all we really know from our study is that the benefits are probably not due to resveratrol.”
Responding to these findings,CEO of Reserveage Nutrition, Boca Raton, FL, Naomi Whittel, said, "This new Resveratrol study is an exploratory study, and by no means definitive. This study is suggestive and not indicative of the potential health benefits of Resveratrol specifically in supplement form."
According to Reserveage Nutrition, the sample was too limited and did not include a placebo-controlled group. The study showed a 34% mortality rate, which the company suggested could have been based on many factors regardless of their Resveratrol intake, such as genetic make-up, environment, lifestyle, diet, or other ailments. Reserveage also pointed out that the authors of the study went as far as to include this statement as a caveat: "The lack of an association between Resveratrol, health, and longevity might be owing to variability in Resveratrol intake in a population that has a large variability in exposure to Resveratrol, interindividual variation, and variability of host-gut microbiota which might imply that a much larger sample size would be needed to detect the association."
Additionally, the method of consumption was purely dietary and not reflective of Resveratrol supplement intake. Analysis of the study from CNN (May 12, 2014) noted, "to claim that Resveratrol does not have influence on the all-cause of mortality would require the comparison of a cohort with 'normal' Resveratrol levels (very low and unpredictable) versus another cohort with a standardized Resveratrol supplementation."
Furthermore, Reserveage took issue with the fact that the study was based largely on alcohol consumption. Medically speaking, alcohol consumption has been linked to kidney and liver failure, which was noted as the cause of death amongst several in the study. Ms. Whittel commented, "Reserveage Nutrition is not in the business of alcohol. Our Resveratrol products combine the finest wildcrafted Japanese Knotweed extract with the skin, seeds, fruit, stem and vine of organic whole red grapes. You are giving your body the benefits of the Resveratrol without the detriment of alcohol. A subject would have to drink hundreds of glasses of red wine a day to match the amounts used in previous Resveratrol studies."
She added, "The scientific community believes there is enough potential in Resveratrol to warrant continued research to explore its effects — in fact there are many studies currently underway. The idea that regular supplemental intake of Resveratrol has no benefit is not a conclusion that can be derived from this study alone."