Resveratrol Study Finds No Benefit

Resveratrol is an antioxidant found in grapes, red wine, chocolate, berries and some root vegetables. For more than 20 years, supplement manufacturers have touted resveratrol as a near-miraculous substance to prevent inflammation, aging, heart attacks and cancers. None of these claims has been proven and a recent study from Johns Hopkins casts doubt about any of these benefits (JAMA Internal Medicine, published online May 12, 2014).

Researchers followed 783 men and women, 65 years and older, in two Italian cities for ten years. They determined how much resveratrol the people were taking in by measuring resveratrol metabolites in their urine. Thirty-four percent (268 of the subjects) died during the ten years of follow up. The study showed that the amount of resveratrol consumed had nothing to do with preventing death, heart attacks, cancers or levels of inflammation (as measured by blood levels of C–reactive protein, interleukin–6, Interleukin L-1(beta) and tumor necrosis factor). In fact, the lowest rates of heart disease were in people with the lowest levels of resveratrol. The authors write: "Resveratrol levels achieved with a Western diet did not have a substantial influence on health status and mortality risk of the population in this study".

Resveratrol has often been used as the explanation for some studies that associate red wine with reduced risk for heart attacks. However, recent papers show that alcohol in any amount is associated with increased risk for certain cancers and dementia, and this new paper suggests that the possible benefit of reducing heart attack risk is a poor excuse for increasing your intake of alcohol. At present our best strategy for preventing heart attacks and living a long, healthful life is eating a plant-heavy diet, exercising regularly and avoiding overweight. We have no good evidence that resveratrol prevents disease or prolongs life in humans.

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