Friday, January 30, 2009


I've been asked a lot of questions this week about resveratrol in the wake of a 60 Minutes story on it, so I thought this would be a good time to discuss it.

Interest in this goes back 15-20 years, when a phrase "The French Paradox" was coined, which referred to the observation that the French ate like pigs, drank like fish, smoked like chimneys, yet didn't drop like flies as much as we did. Ironically, 60 Minutes, of all people, did a story on it in the early 90's.

What they seemed to drink the most of was red wine, the grapes of which resveratrol is a major constituent. It's also found in pine trees, peanuts and other plants, one of which, polygonnum cuspidatum, turns up in Chinese Medicine used for liver and heart conditions.

The ensuing body of science on resveratrol is far too vast to be covered in one blog entry, so I won't try.

What I will do is to try to provide some overview.

In order to get a sense not only of what resveratrol does, but why it might do this, one has to step back and view plants as existing in the same, toxic environment that we do. They have a need to develop protection from said toxins, too. They evolve to produce these protector compounds, called flavanoids and polyphenols. Turns out, the animals who eat(or drink) these plants seem to have some of this protection conferred upon themselves, too. At least, that's the theory, and the evidence is piling up in favor of it.

The above link talks about the main areas of research. I'm going to focus on the aging question and the best source.

My theory on its anti aging qualities is pretty simple. The studies highlighted in the link clearly demonstrate that resveratrol has an inhibitory effect on many cancers and a protective effect against heart disease. These are the two biggest health threats we have. If you delay or prevent these two things from happening, common sense dictates that, statistically, the population, at large, will live longer.

What science is learning is that food is more than mere calories. Food is also information. Information that may be signaling disease causing genes and turning them off. Red grapes are only the first to be studied extensively and for a fairly long time. There will be more. Keep your eye on hops. That could be tomorrow's resveratrol. Beer and wine. Who knew?

Which brings me to the best source. All jokes aside, excessive alcohol consumption is extremely dangerous. It's a known carcinogen and a lot of other things, few of which are good.

The best way to get this in efficacious amounts is through supplementation of a standardized extract. Most red wine contains very little resveratrol, and you'd have to drink a case of wine a day to get a protective amount of it.

Caveat Emptor; not all supplements are created equal. Cheap supplements usually means poor quality. Metagenics, Thorne, Standard Process, Pure Encapsulation are the best supplement manufacturers on the planet. None of them pay me. The company that does pay me makes very high quality products, as well.