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Lost in translation: Why resveratrol supplements are not the same as drinking wine

Resveratrol, the miracle molecule from red wine, has rocketed from relative obscurity to celebrity status in the supplement market. Its multiple anti-aging properties are given credit for this, and I used resveratrol research in my book “Age Gets Better with Wine” to explain why moderate regular consumption of red wine is a healthy thing. Supplement marketers now proclaim that resveratrol pills have “all the benefits of wine without the alcohol” and tout their own special formulas. Yet there remains a lack of large well-controlled clinical studies to back up these claims.
A relatively new field of medical science called translational medicine helps explain the problem. Often called “bench to bedside” research, translational medicine seeks to bridge the gap between laboratory studies and validated clinical treatments. The challenge of translational medicine is enormous, given that more than 90% of treatments (say for example a drug or supplement) fail in human trials after successful ru…

Versatile Resveratrol Part 2: The ultimate skin care ingredient?

What would the ideal anti-aging skin care product look like? To begin with, it would need to provide protection against sun damage from UV exposure.[i] Of course any sunscreen does that, so what we really want is something that can help reverse the effects of UV exposure, which include mutations in the DNA of skin cells. This is where the idea of working at a molecular level comes into play. While many products talk about “DNA repair” the evidence for a role for resveratrol is particularly strong. There are several ways that resveratrol functions in this regard, the best known of which is its powerful antioxidant effects.
Healthier DNA means not only more attractive skin but a lower risk of skin cancers. The use of antioxidants such as resveratrol to lower risk of skin cancer is known as chemoprevention. There is evidence that it may help prevent many other types of cancer as well.
Another measure of aging has to do with integrity of sequences on the ends of the chromosome known as tel…

Versatile resveratrol: the ultimate skin care ingredient?

Part 1 Recently I was honored to join Professors David Sinclair of Harvard and Joseph Vercauteren of the University of Montpelleir at an anti-aging symposium at the invitation of Mathilde Thomas of Caudalie in Paris. Caudalie has been using wine extracts (and specifically resveratrol) in their products for more than 15 years, after Vercauteren identified it in wine grape vines. Sinclair has become well known for his work identifying the role of sirtuin (SIRT) genes in anti-aging, and resveratrol as a natural sirtuin activator. While much remains to be proven, it is fair to say that science is finally beginning to have an impact on skin care. With an increasing understanding of what causes aging in skin cells and how botanical antioxidants such as resveratrol work at a molecular level, there is no excuse to use anti-aging skin care products that don’t multitask.
Before delving into the potential benefits of resveratrol in skin care, it may help to review how resveratrol came into the spo…

Red wine vs resveratrol as cancer fighters

Headline August 8, 2013: Red wine protects from colon cancer “According to a study … from researchers at SUNY Stony Brook which compared the drinking habits of red and white wine drinkers with similar lifestyles … consuming three or more glasses of red wine a week may help to reduce the risk of colon cancer. They found that drinking red wine reduced the risk of colon cancer by 68 per cent while drinking white wine did not. The researchers believe it is the resveratrol in red wine that provides the protection.”
Headline August 10, 2013: Dietary supplement resveratrol is unlikely to have impact on cancer“…researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina, USA, report results from a study of resveratrol in healthy human volunteers. They found that oral resveratrol is actually broken down to an inactive form very rapidly, so it’s unlikely that supplements have any effect.”
Is it possible that both of these findings are true? The answer is yes, but only if it is something other than th…

Resveratrol and exercise: a good thing or bad?

An article just out this week suggests that resveratrol actually cancels the beneficial effects of exercise in older men. This widely cited study, not yet even in print, was a randomized prospective clinical trial in which healthy but inactive men were placed on an exercise program and given either a 250 mg resveratrol supplement or placebo. Exercise tolerance (measured by maximum oxygen uptake), improved cholesterol profiles, and blood pressure indicators in a group of men average age 65 were all improved after 6 weeks in the placebo group as compared to those taking resveratrol , who had no significant changes.This runs counter to expectations from several previous studies (mostly on mice) that suggested the opposite. Resveratrol has even been touted as a performance-enhancing supplement!
This is one reason why use of supplements based primarily on animal studies is problematic; when tested in humans, data may be contradictory. The real questions are how and why such different effect…

From grapes to great skin: new evidence for resveratrol

When I first developed our resveratrol-based antioxidant skin care product Veraderma in conjunction with Calidora Skin Clinics in 2008, I had good reason to believe in its potent anti-aging capabilities. Resveratrol , the multipurpose miracle molecule whose most familiar source is wine grape skins (hence red wine because it is fermented with the skins), has become a bit of a sensation since then. Several major skin care companies now include wine compounds in their products, and the science continues to reinforce the role of resveratrol in healthy skin (even if its use as an oral supplement remains to be proven.)
One example comes from independent research underwritten by L’Oreal, which found that there are specific resveratrol “binding sites” in human skin cells that mediate resveratrol’s protective properties. These binding sites appear to trigger changes within the cells rendering them resistant to damage from environmental toxins. Notably, resveratrol was more effective than the gr…

Revisiting resveratrol: new findings rekindle anti-aging debate

Just when we thought the bloom was off the rosé for resveratrol, the anti-oxidant polyphenol from red wine with multiple anti-aging properties, along comes new research giving life to the debate. But first a bit of background: As I detailed in my book Age Gets Better with Wine, it is well-documented that wine drinkers live longer and have lower rates of many diseases of aging. Much or the credit for this has been given to resveratrol, though there isn’t nearly enough of it in wine to explain the effects. Nevertheless, I dubbed it the “miracle molecule” and when it was reported to activate a unique life-extension phenomenon via a genetic trigger called SIRT, an industry was born, led by Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, quickly acquired by pharma giant Glaxo. The hope was that resveratrol science could lead to compounds enabling people to live up to 150 years and with a good quality of life.
But alas, researchers from other labs could not duplicate the results, and clinical studies disappointed.…

Is red wine a performance-enhancing drug?

Lance Armstrong’s doping revelation aside, a recent study added controversy to the question of whether quercetin, a red wine-derived substance, can boost athletic performance by boosting testosterone levels. Though it was a test-tube study not backed up by any human subject data, the researchers thought it significant enough to inform the World Anti-Doping Agency. Quercetin has been reported in reputable publications to enhance oxygen uptake and endurance, and since many of these have come out since my review in "Age Gets Better with Wine," so I thought it might be worth another look.
For starters, quercetin is an antioxidant bioflavanoid that can be found in foods other than wine (apples for instance.) It first caught researchers’ attention as a component of red wine, being a possible contributor (along with other compounds such as resveratrol) to the famous “French paradox.” Like other wine-derived compounds, quercetin seems to alter energy metabolism at a cellular level. …