Resveratrol is a plant compound similar to flavonoids. It is found in low levels in the skin of red grapes, red wine, cocoa powder, baking chocolate, dark chocolate, peanuts, and mulberry skin. Red wine is perhaps the most recognized source of resveratrol, however, red wine contains only one milligram per glass. Most resveratrol supplements use Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) as the source.
Resveratrol has received a lot of attention has a longevity aid, but its scientific basis relies primarily on test tube and animal studies – there are only a few published human studies at this time and many questions to be answered. Resveratrol activates an enzyme known as sirtuin 1 that plays an important role in the regulation of cellular life spans; it also promotes improved insulin sensitivity. Either of these two effects might explain its ability to extend lifespan.
The Need for Natural Medicine in Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is a major epidemic in the United States and many other countries. Conventional medical care centers on the use of oral hypoglycemic drugs along with a long list of other drugs targeting cardiovascular risk factors like high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels. This approach has proved primarily fruitless as the morbidity, mortality, and economic consequences of T2D has not been curbed by this approach. Not only are many of the drugs associated with significant side effects (including weight gain), they are also associated with earlier mortality. Clearly, there is a great need for the natural approach that centers on the underlying disease process (NOTE: Please see the updated 3rd Edition of the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine).
To evaluate the effect of oral supplementation of resveratrol in improving the glycemic control and the associated risk factors in patients with T2D, sixty-two patients were randomized into control and intervention groups. The control group received only oral hypoglycemic agents, whereas the intervention group received resveratrol (250 mg/day) along with their oral hypoglycemic agents for a period of 3 months. The primary endpoint of significance was determination of hemoglobin A(1c). This marker signifies the attachment of glucose to red blood cells and provides an indicator of blood sugar control over a 3-month period. Higher A1C levels are associated with a significantly greater risk for the complications of diabetes such as nerve, eye, and kidney disease. Resveratrol supplementation improved the mean A1C with a drop from 9.99% to 9.65% after the 3 month period. In addition, systolic blood pressure dropped from 139.71 to 127.92 mmHg and total cholesterol dropped from 182 to 166 mg/dl.
Here is the fine print, these results are not clinically meaningful and are far less beneficial compared to many other natural products that improve blood sugar control (e.g., PGX, mulberry extract, gymnema extract), yet given the hype that has surrounded resveratrol there is little doubt that the specifics of the results of the study will be lost in the marketing of resveratrol products. They claim that resveratrol improves blood sugar control, which is definitely does. But, it is also true that a thimble can bale water out of a sinking ship. Takeaway message, until there is more solid data exists to support resveratrol, save your money and use it to buy more worthwhile products.
Bhatt JK, Thomas S, Nanjan MJ. Resveratrol supplementation improves glycemic control in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Nutr Res. 2012 Jul;32(7):537-41.