Is Resveratrol “Good or Bad” for Longevity?

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by Nils Osmar. April 21, 2022

Is resveratrol helpful or harmful when it comes to life extension?

  • A 2016 study, Resveratrol and Lifespan in Model Organisms, provides some perspective, and clarifies that “Resveratrol has been shown to prolong lifespan in approximately 60% of the studies conducted in model organisms.”
  • It has not been shown to extend lifespan in people. But then, neither has any other compound, because it would take more than a human lifespan to get a decisive answer about whether an approach really helps people live longer.
  • A 60 percent success rate isn’t terribly impressive compared to some other substances, but it isn’t a wash either.

From the study:

We have reviewed the literature studying the influence of resveratrol on the lifespan of model organisms including yeast, flies, worms, and rodents…. Resveratrol supplementation has been shown to prolong lifespan in approximately 60% of the studies conducted in model organisms.

However, current literature is contradictory, indicating that the lifespan effects of resveratrol vary strongly depending on the model organism.

While worms and killifish seemed very responsive to resveratrol, resveratrol failed to affect lifespan in the majority of the studies conducted in flies and mice. Furthermore, factors such as dose, gender, genetic background and diet composition may contribute to the high variance in the observed effects…”

Whether or not resveratrol turns out to lengthen lifespan in mammals or humans, it does have other well-established health benefits. From an article called “Does Resveratrol slow cancer growth?

A large body of research has established that resveratrol has multiple beneficial health effects. As well as anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and cardio-protective (reducing the risk of heart disease) effects, resveratrol has also been shown to have anti-cancer properties.

Laboratory and animal research has shown that resveratrol can act against cancer cells by activating or deactivating molecular pathways.

It can help prevent the formation of potential carcinogens (substances that cause cancer), block the action of carcinogens on their target organs or tissue, and act on cells to suppress cancer development or induce apoptosis (programmed cell death)….

So What to Do?

  • There’s a tendency to ask overly simple questions when discussing compounds that may affect health or longevity, then come to overly simple conclusions — i.e., “Resveratrol is good for people!” “No, resveratrol is bad for people!” But like many substances, its effects in the body are complex.
  • I’m currently taking resveratrol three times a week, partly for its anti-cancer effects, partly because it clears plaque from arteries, and partly because it supports autophagy, activates AMPK, and most studies support the hypothesis that it activates the SIRT1 gene, which is likely to increase healthspan in mammals but not lifespan.
  • I have zero stake in whether other people take it and am not trying to convince anyone to do so (or stop doing so). We all have to do our best to make sense of the sometimes-conflicting data when making choices about supplements. But I think it does make sense to start by recognizing that the data is complex and sometimes contradictory, and that more data is always coming in.

Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay

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