Can resveratrol slow aging?

Mark C. Houston, MD
Internal Medicine
Resveratrol shows the most promise as an anti-aging nutrient. Resveratrol is a polyphenol found in red wine, the skin of young unripe red grapes, grape seeds, and purple grape juice. It’s found in smaller amounts in peanuts and in the roots of a Chinese medicinal herb -- Polygonum cuspidatum, and a South American shrub -- Senna quinquangulata -- that activates a group of genes called sirtuins (silent information regulator proteins), specifically SIR1p and SIR2p genes in human cells. Activation of SIR1p will extend life span and can be particularly effective in conjunction with caloric restriction. SIR1p blocks the activity of tumor growth and cell death and protects human cells from gamma radiation.  SIR2p increases DNA stability, speeds cellular repair, and increases total life span.

The power of resveratrol in various studies is impressive. In yeast, resveratrol extends life by 80%. In mice, rats, and primates, resveratrol demonstrates anti-aging and athletic endurance activities, promotes weight loss, and simulates the anti-aging effects of caloric restriction without actually restricting calories. Resveratrol has also demonstrated antioxidant, anti-inflammatory anti-cancer, anti-platelet, and cholesterol lowering activities. Resveratrol increases insulin sensitivity, reduces insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I), activates the PPAR gamma system, increases mitochondrial number, increases energy expenditure, and improves motor function. Recent studies also suggest resveratrol reduces the risk of colorectal cancer and slows the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Some evidence suggests that resveratrol, a plant chemical found most abundantly in grapes and red wine, may slow aging. For instance, several studies in mice have found that it can slow the progression of age-related diseases such as cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer's disease.

Resveratrol is thought to be a powerful antioxidant that protects our bodies from damaging compounds called free radicals, which are produced during metabolism. But partly because the animal studies used very high doses of resveratrol, scientists caution that the findings are preliminary and may not apply to humans.

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