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What Are the Pros and Cons of Resveratrol?

What do you know about the pros and cons of the popular supplement resveratrol? Scientists are still uncovering its potential benefits and problems.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Resveratrol?
Food rich with resveratrol, grapes, plums, goji, peanuts, cranberry, raspberrys, dark chocolate

Over the last decade, a polyphenol compound with the tongue-twisting name resveratrol has garnered a great deal of attention. Organisms such as yeast, worms, fruit flies and fish live longer when they ingest resveratrol. So far, though, studies have not shown that people consuming this compound live longer. It may provide some other health benefits, however. What do you know about the pros and cons of resveratrol?

Pros and Cons of Resveratrol:

Q. We have heard many good things about resveratrol. But before I start taking it, I’d like to know more about the pros and cons of resveratrol. What can you tell us?

A. Certain plants produce resveratrol to defend themselves against pathogens or in response to injury. Grape and peanut skins are both rich in this polyphenol. So are many berries. Consequently, foods made from grapes such as red wine or wine vinegar are relatively good sources of the compound. On the other hand, people metabolize it relatively quickly, so blood levels of metabolites may be higher than those of the parent chemical. Please note: a five-ounce glass of Pinot Noir wine provides only half a milligram of resveratrol. To get a reliable amount, you’d need a supplement.

Blood Sugar and Blood Pressure:

Studies show that this antioxidant can increase insulin sensitivity and improve blood glucose control (Nutrition & Metabolism, Sept. 22, 2017). Resveratrol also improves blood vessel flexibility and may help lower blood pressure modestly (International Journal of Molecular Sciences, April 30, 2019).

Other Pros and Cons of Resveratrol:

New research indicates that resveratrol might improve blood flow in the brain and help cognitive function in older women (Nutrients, March 20, 2020). Previous studies, however, had not shown significant improvement in cognitive tests (Pharmacological Research, Feb. 2018).

This compound does have some downsides. Like many antioxidants, resveratrol can have pro-oxidant effects in some situations. This could in theory have negative consequences, although human volunteers in resveratrol studies have not reported serious side effects.  

Adverse Effects and Interactions:

Taking resveratrol before exercising could interfere with the benefits from physical activity. Other side effects may include nausea, diarrhea, itchy bottom and allergic reactions.

In addition, the compound might interact with drugs metabolized by the enzyme CYP3A4. This is the same enzyme inhibited by grapefruit. Anyone taking resveratrol supplements should ask the pharmacist to check on potential drug interactions.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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  • Zhu X et al, "Effects of resveratrol on glucose control and insulin sensitivity in subjects with type 2 diabetes: Systematic review and meta-analysis." Nutrition & Metabolism, Sept. 22, 2017. DOI: 10.1186/s12986-017-0217-z
  • Li H et al, "Resveratrol and vascular function." International Journal of Molecular Sciences, April 30, 2019. DOI: 10.3390/ijms20092155
  • Thaung Zaw JJ et al, "Sustained cerebrovascular and cognitive benefits of resveratrol in postmenopausal women." Nutrients, March 20, 2020. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12030828
  • Farzaei MH et al, "Effect of resveratrol on cognitive and memory performance and mood: A meta-analysis of 225 patients." Pharmacological Research, Feb. 2018. DOI: 10.1016/j.phrs.2017.08.009
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