Resveratrol, A Heady Vintage

A GLASS of red wine may not only complement your meal, it may also buy you some time to enjoy more out of life. Studies to date show that Resveratrol, an ingredient found in red wine and also in the medicinal plant, Polygonum cuspidatum (Japanese knotweed), can prolong the life of brewer’s yeast by 70%, worms by 18% and fruit flies by 29%.

Early last year, Italian researchers discovered that Resveratrol can extend the lifespan of turquoise killifish by 50%. Killifish live only three months when in captivity. The results showed that adding Resveratrol to the daily diet prolonged their expected lifespan.

The fish study is interesting because fish, vertebrates, are far above yeast, worms and fruit flies in the evolutionary tree.

Research shows Resveratrol’s anti-ageing ability is due to the activation of the longevity gene. It activates the same longevity gene expressed during caloric restriction, the only proven way of extending lifespan.

So far, studies showing the ability of Resveratrol to extend lifespan are confined to lower organisms and fish. Unfortunately such studies on human will take more than 100 years to complete. Since humans share many genes in common with even the simplest of organisms such as bacteria and worms, it is likely that the studies in animals may have similar results in human.

What is also interesting about Resveratrol is that it has many effects such as anti-ageing, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, promotes anti-cancer activities and so on. These properties represent many of the known risks for developing different age-related degenerative diseases.

Cancer is, perhaps, the most dynamic area of Resveratrol research. Resveratrol is the first natural medicinal to have solid evidence behind it – showing that it blocks or stops many stages of cancer. Resveratrol has been proven to fight cancer in vitro at all three stages; initiation, promotion, and progression. Resveratrol not only prevents cancer, it’s being proposed as an additional treatment1-3.

In August 2006, researchers at Boston University discovered that Resveratrol given to mice increased their insulin utilisation. Resistance to insulin is largely responsible for type 2 diabetes. They found Resveratrol in mice activated the AMP enzyme better than some commonly used anti-diabetic drugs. Resveratrol promoted utilisation of insulin and overcame insulin resistance, believed to be responsible for most cases of adult-onset diabetes.

Recent studies suggest that the anti-ageing properties of Resveratrol might help prevent or ameliorate (to make more tolerable) Alzheimer’s disease. One of the characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease is the deposition of plaques in the brain. These plaques are caused by amyloid-beta peptides.

Recent scientific studies suggest that adding Resveratrol to the cells that create amyloid-beta peptides (and as a result the destructive plaques) result in significantly lower levels of the amyloid-beta peptides in these cells.

“For years, scientists have advocated drinking a glass of red wine once or twice a day to help with cardiovascular health,” said Grace Sun, a professor of biochemistry and part of a husband-wife research team at University of Missouri-Columbia’s School of Medicine. “Our research has shown that a compound in red wine or grapes – Resveratrol – can have a similar impact on brain health, and in some cases, may help minimise the damage to the brain when a stroke occurs.”

In November 2006, in a study led by Johan Auwerx at the Institute of Genetics and Molecular and Cell Biology in Illkirch, France, mice were out on a high-fat diet. After three weeks, the mice on the Resveratrol supplements weighed only about 20% more than mice on a standard diet. But those on the high-fat diet that did not receive the supplement weighed 60% more than the control mice. The Resveratrol also improved the rodents’ endurance in fitness tests, and seemed to have no toxic side effects.

Resveratrol boosts muscle endurance by increasing the energy-producing components (“power-plants”) within muscle cells, called mitochondria, the researchers believe.

Auwerx says that high-doses of Resveratrol are needed to trigger the pathway that gives cells more mitochondria. “At very low doses you don’t activate the cell machinery to burn energy,” he explains, throwing out the idea that the odd glass of wine might improve athletic prowess.

Also making headlines in November 2006 – scientists at Harvard demonstrated that Resveratrol kept overfed mice from gaining weight, turning them into the equivalent of Olympic marathoners, and seems to slow down their ageing process.

Resveratrol seem to protect the mice from the ill effects of obesity and extended their life spans by 31%, raising the tantalising prospect that the compound could do the same for humans and may also help people live longer, healthier lives, researchers reported.

Resveratrol enabled mice that were fed with high-calorie, high-fat diets to live normal, active lives despite being obese – the first time any compound has been shown to do that. Read more in the November 2006 issue of Nature Magazine.

Dr David Sinclair, associate professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School, led a team of researchers from the National Institute on Aging and John Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore as well as investigators from Australia and Spain, in making this discovery, published in Nature Magazine.

The only sure way to obtain a certain amount of Resveratrol daily is to take a standardised extract. Standardisation ensures a consistent amount of Resveratrol with consistent high quality. The richest source of Resveratrol is from Polygonum cuspidatum, also known as Japanese knotweed.


  1. Cal, C. et al. Resveratrol and cancer: chemoprevention, apoptosis, and chemoimmunosensitizing activities. Curr. Med. Chem-Anti-Cancer Agents 2003;3:77-93.
  2. Pervaiz, S. Reveratrol-from the bottle to the bedside? Leuk. Lymphoma 2001;40:491-8.
  3. Ding, X.Z. et al. Resveratrol inhibits proliferation and induces apoptosis in human pancreatic cancer cells. Pancreas 2002;25:e71-e76.