A team of Dutch scientists has found that resveratrol, the polyphenolic compound that has attracted a great deal of interest in the scientific community in recent years, can improve the metabolism of overweight men, improving their health and possibly extending their lives.
Resveratrol's image has experienced some ups and downs lately. One recent study raised serious doubts about earlier claims that resveratrol could potentially increase lifespans in animals. Another study said that resveratrol studies on animals could not be replicated in human trials.
The latest study, published in Cell Metabolism, finds that the red-wine chemical does appear to help increase the lifespan of humans, specifically by counteracting some of the effects of a poor diet. "It is one of the first studies to show that resveratrol can do similar things as observed in animals," said study co-author Dr. Patrick Schrauwen, a metabolism professor at the University of Maastricht. "That needed to be proven in humans, and we have now done it. The effects were on average small, but very consistent."
For the trial, the team selected 11 obese men from the Netherlands and gave them either large doses of resveratrol supplements or a placebo. After 30 days, the resveratrol group switched to the placebo and vice versa.
A team of biologists, nutritionists and radiologists analyzed health data from the two periods and found that when the men were on resveratrol they experienced more optimal metabolism. While they did not lose weight, they avoided many of the side effects of a poor diet. Their livers stored less fat; sugar and insulin levels in their blood decreased; mitochondria, the powerhouses of individual cells, showed better function and overall energy expenditure decreased.
Schrauwen said that although red wine is a natural source of resveratrol, moderate wine drinkers should not expect similar results. "The dose of resveratrol that we gave, 150 milligrams per day, would be equal to approximately 10 liters of red wine, and that is obviously not realistic," he said. "So resveratrol may be helpful if given as a food supplement."