September 22, 2008

Choose Foods With Antioxidant Resveratrol Before Supplements

By Donna Olmstead For the Journal

Promising research appears to show that an antioxidant in wine and other foods such as peanuts, grapes, mulberries and blueberries improves many conditions associated with aging.

But heading to the wine shop for cases of pinot noir or a health food store for supplements may be premature.

Research seems to show the antioxidant called resveratrol might help with stroke, cancer, diabetes, other cardiovascular ailments and skin problems.

David Sinclair, a Harvard researcher who studied resveratrol, told the Public Broadcasting Service that newer research shows even the trace amounts in a glass of wine, about 0.3 percent of the experiment's concentration, may benefit cells.

Resveratrol given in much lower doses than thought necessary may promote healthier longevity in mice, according to research in the journal Public Library of Science One.

But it's too soon to know if a supplement would have any effect, researchers say.

"We don't know if it's resveratrol that is the benefit or something in the entire grape. It could be resveratrol working in combination with some other element in the grape that we haven't been able to isolate yet," says Shelley Rael, a registered dietitian at the University of New Mexico.

Positive findings

About two years ago the Harvard researchers discovered the compound of resveratrol increased the lifespan of obese mice and protected them against the negative effects of high-fat diets -- high blood glucose, fatty liver and cardiovascular disease. The mice on resveratrol not only lived longer, but also outperformed the mice in control groups on motor skills tests, according to a news release from Harvard, available at edu/sites/RELEASES/ html/ 11_1Sinclair.html.

The research indicated the resveratrol activated a longevity gene, SIR1. For more than 70 years, scientists have activated a similar longevity gene in various species by restricting their calories, according to the news release. Resveratrol geared up the gene without calorie restriction.

'French paradox'

Some theorize the Harvard results support the "French paradox" -- that the French enjoy a high-fat diet without higher rates of heart disease or other ill effects because they drink red wine.

Scientists of animal research in the United States and abroad have created applications for resveratrol to treat skin cancer, reduce blood glucose and wipe out cancer cells and make them more vulnerable to radiation and chemotherapy, according to reports at

Results from the Harvard research are "a pretty impressive start. It's hard to study human aging in a lab because human life spans are so long," says Dr. Mark Raterink, a local ear, nose and throat doctor.

About a year ago, he began recommending a supplement with resveratrol and has seen positive results, he says.

But "at the top of the list are lifestyle changes. First and foremost are following diet and exercise recommendations and staying well-hydrated. Other things like supplements may benefit if you make healthy lifestyle choices," he says.

He would recommend supplements with about 100 milligrams of resveratrol daily, he says. "Whether you are 65 or a 105, it (a resveratrol supplement) could help." He says growing old doesn't mean people have joint aches or headaches.

"This is anecdotal from my work," Raterink explains of his patients' progress. He has seen better lab results and other improvements for people taking the supplement who have diabetes, unhealthy lipid panels and hypertension, if those patients also have made positive lifestyle changes.

As with any supplement, buying resveratrol supplements means "buyer beware," Raterink says. He recommends looking for a product containing transresveratrol, the most active form of the compound, that is as pure as possible. Raterink uses a product called Vasculosirt from Biotics Research Corp., available through health professionals.

Those supplements cost about $85 for a month's supply, he says, adding he doesn't have a financial interest in the firm.

"As research continues, it may be found that the active constituents in resveratrol may do everything scientists hope, but at this time there is more promise than fact," says Craig Klein, a licensed nutritionist at The Vitamin Trader. "More double-blind human studies are needed before the green light is given to use resveratrol freely."

Studies show getting resveratrol from food is better because the body processes the resveratrol in foods at a slower pace and is no drug interaction," she says.

John Hopkins University in Baltimore advises in a health alert late last year: "There is no information on the benefits or dangers of resveratrol pills in people. ... For now, drink red wine for pleasure and your heart." keep levels higher for longer, Klein says.

Rael advises people 65 or older to consult with their pharmacists or health-care providers before adding a resveratrol supplement.

"A lot of older people may be on blood thinners, and you want to make sure there

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