Ok, so lets start with what is resveratrol?
Resveratrol is a polyphenol compound produced by several plants as a defence mechanism against various pathogens. Susceptible to fungi, bacteria and toxins, plants create resveratrol for its antimicrobial properties and is therefore a key component of the plants immune system. Good sources of resveratrol include the skin of berries, where it is thought to help prevent the entry of pathogens in to the fruit which would lead to spoilage.
In supplements, resveratrol is usually derived from Japanese knotweed (Fallopia Japonica), a member of the polygonum family. An invasive species, Japanese knotweed tends to crowd out other plants, where its rapid growth is based on a successful, invasive root system that has traditionally caused damage to buildings, flood defences, roads and many other forms of infrastructure. Consequently, this plant has been listed by the World Conservation Union as one of the world’s worst invasive species. Since this plant is not approved for food use in the UK, this means that many resveratrol supplements contravene food regulations and so the plant extract is sourced from China and to a lesser extent Canada.
What is all the hype about?
Resveratrol is often reported to increase lifespan, a huge claim (probably the biggest you can make) which can’t be justified on current evidence. Other claims include resveratrol protecting heart health, increasing blood flow and also improving insulin sensitivity. Yes the French drink more wine and have fewer heart attacks than us Brits, however, it would be wrong to assume that resveratrol has any major bearing on this statistic. Many factors independently influence cardiovascular health including: Stress, sleep, happiness, diet, exercise, smoking, alcohol and genetics to name a few.
Does resveratrol do anything new we haven’t seen before?
No not really. Resveratrol shares a lot of its beneficial effects with bioflavonoids such as quercetin and anthocyanidins, products that are already blockbuster hits here at Nature’s Best. Yes resveratrol is an antioxidant, but then again, all polyphenols have antioxidant activity so there’s nothing new here. In addition to the exaggerated life extension claim, resveratrol has occasionally been marketed for weight loss, improved insulin sensitivity and reducing blood pressure, by stimulating complex mechanisms in the cells of the body. It is suspected however, that resveratrol has a limited influence on these complicated mechanisms, mechanisms which appear to respond very well to calorie restriction and fat reduction. The question then is, ‘Why take resveratrol, for small insignificant improvements in weight, insulin sensitivity and blood pressure, when reducing the calorie content of your diet and reducing your body weight can have a profound effect on the same mechanisms that govern these cardiovascular risk factors.’ In other words, you don’t have to waste money on resveratrol, rather, calorie reduction and losing weight will do a far better job. You might just as well spend your money on weight loss supplements that actually work; indirectly they probably support cardiovascular health more so than resveratrol.
Still convinced that resveratrol is a wonder supplement? A recent 2013 review concluded that for patients with heart disease, there was little evidence of resveratrol providing any benefit at all. More recently, a 2014 review confirmed that resveratrol has no effect on blood pressure. Indeed, many scientists warn of increasing the dose of resveratrol to generate meaningful health benefits.
Other things to bearing mind? Resveratrol may have a blood thinning effect and should not be use by people taking blood-thinning medications without a doctors supervision. One study has shown resveratrol to increase heart disease in animals feed a high fat diet, so not all resveratrol research is positive. Something else to bear in mind.
So then, if you want a product that really does support cardiovascular health, either look to our sections on Heart Health or Natural Weight Loss, or if you want something with more evidence from the same flavonoid family, look no further to our hugely popular, anthocyanidin rich, Colladeen® range. Alternatively, if you are interested in a high potency antioxidant, take your pick from our vast collection (although our ORAC 10,000 is one of particular strength). Trust us, there is nothing magical about resveratrol. If there was, we would be producing it.