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.