Resveratrol is a highly researched substance found in grapes as well as other foods and plants. Several years back it made big news when a Harvard study showed that administration of resveratrol to mice greatly prolonged their life span and antagonized the untoward effects of a high fat diet upon their health. Of particular interest was the fact that the mice not only lived longer but they were much more robust and active than their counterparts.
The researchers theorized that this longevity effect was likely related to increased activity of what is known as the SIRT1 gene. Prolonged caloric restriction is known to increase lifespan of animals, and prolonged restriction activates the SIRT1 gene. Resveratrol they found activates this same gene.
This caused a lot of excitement in the supplement world and resveratrol sales shot up. However it soon became known that the bioavailability of resveratrol in humans was exceedingly low compared to mice. Many questioned if the effects seen in animal studies could be duplicated in humans.
A recent study seems to demonstrate that some of these benefits may indeed be seen in people taking supplemental resveratrol. The study used 11 obese but otherwise healthy males. These subjects took 150 mg of resveratrol in capsule form a day for 30 days. A placebo group was utilized as well, and the two groups then switched (cross over). Obviously it is impossible to tell if there is a life-extending effect from a 30 day study, but what can be demonstrated is the presence of key metabolic and transcriptional changes related to longevity and age related diseases.
The researchers found several interesting changes happened in the resveratrol supplement men. First and foremost they found that their metabolic rates decreased. The efficiency of their utilization of calories (particularly fats) in muscle was increased as well, and the protein (AMPK) known to be associated with such improvements in mitochondrial function was increased. Blood glucose, triglyceride, and insulin levels dropped. Markers of inflammation, as well as systolic blood pressure, also dropped. And finally, SIRT1 protein levels were shown to be increased.
All of these observed changes are exactly what is seen in periods of caloric restriction. So in these males, it appeared that supplemental resveratrol mimicked the healthy physiological effects of caloric restriction. It activated the caloric restriction related SIRT1 gene – just as it did in the longevity mice from the famous Harvard study. The question is – might these changes be enough to result in meaningful benefits in the health of someone who took this dose of resveratrol for a long period of time? That can’t be answered of course. Nonetheless, what was demonstrated in this study does give indication that the potential for real benefits (better health, or even longevity) from resveratrol supplementation in people is there.