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Healthy Women May be Wasting Their Money on Popular Supplement

Tim Boyer's picture

In a new study published online in the Oct. 25 issue of the scientific journal Cell Metabolism, researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis report that resveratrol—the antioxidant found in red wine and concentrated in supplements via higher dose extractions from the Japanese Knotweed—may not have any measurable benefit in women who are already considered to be relatively healthy.

Resveratrol is a plant-derived polyphenolic phytoalexin reported to have anti-oxidant, anti- inflammatory and cardio-protective properties that has been repeatedly promoted by the supplement industry as an antioxidant that is responsible for the “French Paradox”— an anecdotal observation with some scientific backing that in spite of a national diet high in fat, the overall incidence of cardiovascular disease in France is significantly lower than in other nations, presumably due to their heightened consumption of red wine.

While numerous studies have been performed to determine whether resveratrol can benefit patients with diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance and metabolic disease from obesity, little has been done to understand what, if any, effect(s) resveratrol has on people who are healthier in comparison.

To gain some novel understanding of resveratrol, the researchers decided to investigate this possibility by focusing the purpose of their study to determine whether supplementation with resveratrol exhibits independent, metabolic effects in relatively healthy people, as opposed to looking at its effects on people who suffer from metabolic disease as previous studies have focused on.

In the study, 15 non-obese, post-menopausal women with normal glucose tolerance were given 75 milligrams of resveratrol daily—which is equivalent to the same amount of resveratrol if they had been drinking 8 liters of red wine per day— for 12 weeks and compared to a control group of women who were given a placebo.

Both the resveratrol and the placebo groups were tested for sensitivity to insulin, the rate of glucose uptake in their muscles, and their metabolic response. What the researchers found, however, differed from results in previous studies observed when testing unhealthy patients. According to a news release from the Washington University in St. Louis:

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“Resveratrol supplements have become popular because studies in cell systems and rodents show that resveratrol can improve metabolic function and prevent or reverse certain health problems like diabetes, heart disease and even cancer,” says senior investigator Samuel Klein, MD, director of Washington University’s Center for Human Nutrition. “But our data demonstrate that resveratrol supplementation does not have metabolic benefits in relatively healthy, middle-aged women.”

However, this does not mean that the positive effects of resveratrol in earlier studies are necessarily in error. Rather, that any benefits observed may be dependent upon the degree of disease a person may have who is taking resveratrol for treatment.

“Few studies have evaluated the effects of resveratrol in people,” Klein explains. “Those studies were conducted in people with diabetes, older adults with impaired glucose tolerance or obese people who had more metabolic problems than the women we studied. So it is possible that resveratrol could have beneficial effects in people who are more metabolically abnormal than the subjects who participated in the study.”

In spite of their negative results in finding any measurable benefit in the healthy women taking the resveratrol supplement, the researchers state that this does not exclude the possibility that red wine may be helpful for healthy women.

“We were unable to detect a metabolic benefit of resveratrol supplementation in our study population, but this does not preclude the possibility that resveratrol could have a synergistic effect when combined with other compounds in red wine.”

For an informative article about studies looking at the benefits of resveratrol for people who may be borderline for disease such as diabetes, follow this link to an article titled “Invasive Weed Shows Promise for Pre-diabetes Patients.”

Image Source: Courtesy of MorgueFile

Reference: “Resveratrol Supplementation Does Not Improve Metabolic Function in Non-obese Women with Normal Glucose Tolerance” Cell Metabolism, 25 October 2012; Jun Yoshino et al.



The fault here is with the study itself, not the resveratrol used in the study. The dosage used in this study was rediculously low, compared to all earlier studies. In the case of the successful Albert Einstein Medical School study and the more recent Florida Pharmacology School study the dosages were approximately 10 to 20 times this amount. This dosage is consistent with the supplements used in those trials, specifically biotivia transmax and bioforte, which are readily available without a prescription. Using a dosage of only 75mg was tantmount to giving a heart attack victim one aspirin. In all previous studies on actual type 2 diabetic patients or those suffering impaired glucose tolerance, a sign of impending diabetes, resveratrol was extremely effective in improving glucose tolerance, enhancing metobolic function and blocking the onset of diabetes. As a cell biologist who has been involved in several human clinical trials of transmax and bioforte resveratrol against diabetes, I can only imagine that this study was designed by a pharmaceutical company to fail intentionally. The pharmas are clearly aware of the potential of resveratrol to cut into their sales of Metformin, a multi-billion dollar earner for the drug companies, and are on a campaign to discredit the compound. As a researcher I question why the clicinicans in this study would select as subjects women who have no issues with glucose tolerance, who were nonobese, and who did not exhibit signs of diabetes. This is equivalent to testing a compound designed to treat cancer on a group of subjects none of whom has cancer. Again, we see a troubling signal of possible pharma involvement.