Resveratrol, a compound found in grapes, wines and nuts, was all over the news recently. Overweight aged male mice whose high-calorie diet was supplemented with resveratrol were healthier and lived longer than mice eating the same diet without the supplement. As with many promising compounds researchers have studied in the past, however, it’s best to be cautious about what resveratrol will be able to do for people.
Resveratrol is a small molecule produced by some plants in response to stress. Studies over the last few years have found that it can extend the lifespan of yeast, worms, flies and fish. Researchers funded partly by NIH set out to study the compound in mice, which are often used for experiments before testing in people.
The researchers placed year-old mice (considered middle-aged) on three different diets: a standard mouse diet, a high-fat, high-calorie diet and a high-fat, high-calorie diet supplemented with resveratrol. By 114 weeks (old age for a mouse), 58% of the high-calorie mice had died. However, only 42% of the mice eating the same high-calorie diet with resveratrol had died, similar to that of the mice eating the standard diet.
Resveratrol didn’t cause a significant reduction in body weight, but it still produced several changes linked with better health and longer life, such as lower blood levels of several factors that, in humans, predict the onset of diabetes. There weren’t any noticeable toxic effects.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that this is a study of male mice. We still have much to learn about resveratrol’s safety and effectiveness in humans.