Resveratrol is part of a group of compounds called polyphenols. They’re thought to act like antioxidants, protecting the body against damage that can put you at higher risk for things like cancer and heart disease.
It’s in the skin of red grapes, but you can also find it in peanuts, red wine, berries, and other foods and berries.
Manufacturers have tried to capitalize on its powers by selling resveratrol supplements. Most resveratrol capsules sold in the U.S. contain extracts from an Asian plant called Polygonum cuspidatum. Other resveratrol supplements are made from red wine or red grape extracts.
Ads touting these supplements on the Internet promise everything from weight loss to a healthier, longer life.
Do resveratrol supplements really deliver on those promises?
Benefits of Resveratrol
It’s gained a lot of attention for its reported anti-aging and disease-fighting powers. Researchers have long believed that substances in red wine might have health benefits. Beginning in the 1990s, experts began to focus on resveratrol, an antioxidant compound in red wine. Since then, some animal and lab studies have shown that resveratrol has promising antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer effects.
It’s important to note that while experts agree that it does have potential, there’s still not enough data to confirm how well it works. Resveratrol supplements have not been well-studied in people. We don't really know what benefits and risks they might have. We also don't know if resveratrol is necessarily more important than some of the other natural substances in wine.
Still, early research does suggest it might help protect you against:
Heart disease: It’s thought to help reduce inflammation, lower LDL or "bad" cholesterol, and make it more difficult for clots to form that can lead to a heart attack.
Cancer: It could limit the spread of cancer cells and start killing them.
Alzheimer's: It may protect nerve cells from damage and fight the plaque buildup that can lead to the disease.
Diabetes: Resveratrol helps prevent insulin resistance, a condition in which the body becomes less sensitive to the blood sugar-lowering hormone insulin. The condition can lead to diabetes.
Researchers believe that resveratrol activates the SIRT1 gene. That gene is believed to protect the body against the effects of obesity and the diseases of aging.
Resveratrol and Red Wine
Some people wonder if they should drink more red wine because of the possible health benefits of resveratrol. But most experts and organizations like the American Heart Association still suggest limiting alcoholic drinks to one per day for women and two for men. Four ounces of red wine equals one drink. Other forms of alcohol do not have resveratrol.
So far, studies have not discovered any severe ones, even when resveratrol is taken in large doses. When you get resveratrol in the amount naturally found in foods, it is generally considered safe. It could cause a reaction in those who are allergic to grapes or wine.
People who have health conditions like bleeding disorders should not take resveratrol without talking to a doctor first.
If you take any medicines or other supplements regularly, talk to your health care provider before you start using resveratrol supplements. They could interact with medicines like blood thinners, blood pressure drugs, cancer treatments, MAOI antidepressants, antiviral and antifungal medicines, NSAID painkillers, and supplements like St. John's wort, garlic, and ginkgo.
As with other supplements, the FDA doesn't regulate resveratrol. That makes it hard for consumers to know exactly what they're getting or whether the product is effective. There also isn't any specific dosage recommendation, and how much you should take can vary from supplement to supplement.
The dosages in most resveratrol supplements are typically much lower than the amounts that research has shown to be helpful. Most supplements contain 250 to 500 milligrams. To get the dose used in some studies, people would have to consume 2 grams of resveratrol (2,000 milligrams) or more a day. Ask your doctor for advice.
The Bottom Line
Until more high-quality research is done, experts do not recommend resveratrol supplements for antiaging or disease prevention. Resveratrol supplements are also not recommended for children or for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.