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Resveratrol Research: Does New Research Show that It’s More Hype than Reality?

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resveratrol research

I’ve blogged a few times this past week about Resveratrol research and the good things that many studies have found it can, or may, do. However, this past week there was also a big news cycle that seemed to show that resveratrol didn’t actually help reduce the risk of disease. So let’s look at the resveratrol research.

Resveratrol is a chemical found in red wine and certain roots. It’s been credited through the years with likely health benefits and as a result, the supplement industry has seized on the buzz. Could the hype have exceeded the reality? Well a big study just published in one of the journals of the AMA weighed in this week. The study took place in wine country (the Chianti region of Italy) in two villages and included more than 700 retired Italians. The authors measured the urinary excretion of resveratrol to determine if higher levels of consumption (presumably from lots of red wine) was associated with lower risk of dying from cancer or heart disease. They also measured markers of inflammation. During 9 years of follow-up, 268 (34.3%) of the participants died. In the end, there was no difference in the rate of death in the group that had the highest amounts of resveratrol in their system and the group with the lowest. In addition, there was no difference in inflammatory markers.

So what gives? Was resveratrol a complete bust? First, this study didn’t measure whether these Italians took any resveratrol supplements, so we have no idea from this study whether or not taking supplements helps the risk of dying from these causes. Second, from personal experience having stayed in this region of Italy, the most likely source of resveratrol was red wine. The authors are moot as to whether they controlled their modelling using alcohol consumption. Why would this matter? We know from other studies that 1-2 glasses of wine or other alcohol is protective, but more can increase your chance of dying quite precipitously. So did the authors just design a study to pick out the winos in the group? If so, then any positive effects of moderate wine consumption could have been wiped out by those participants who drank a bit too much of the red stuff.

The upshot? While this study got loads of press with countless university talking heads proclaiming that supplements didn’t work, it doesn’t really say much. Hopefully we’ll see studies come out that look at the long-term effects of resveratrol supplementation.

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