Resveratrol and Diabetes

Does the resveratrol in red wine and other foods control diabetes? Listen to media headlines on resveratrol and diabetes, and that’s certainly what you’d believe. Get the whole story from Dr. Gayl Canfield, Director of Nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Center.

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In recent research, scientists reported that overweight, middle-aged mice whose high-calorie, high-fat diet was supplemented by resveratrol had better health and lived longer than chubby counterparts who did not receive it. Resveratrol is a compound found in common foods like grapes, red wine, and nuts.

Resveratrol and diabetes

The study, funded in part by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), concluded that resveratrol appeared to lower the rate of diabetes, liver problems, and other fat-related ill effects in obese mice.

But don’t rush out and buy red wine or resveratrol supplements yet, cautions Pritikin’s Kimberly Gomer. “The jury is still out, way out.”

For starters, the mice were fed massive doses of resveratrol – 24 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. “Red wine has about 1.5 to 3 milligrams of resveratrol per liter, so a 150-pound person would need to guzzle 750 to 1,500 bottles of red wine a day to get such a dose.  Well,” Kimberly jokes, “if it didn’t extend your life, you’d be so drunk you wouldn’t really care.”

Pills of resveratrol would require huge doses as well. “Many supplements have about 20 milligrams. The amount used in the study was the equivalent of giving a 150-pound man 1,636 milligrams, which would be about 80 pills a day,” notes Kimberly.

Megadoses are scary because everything, even nutrients, is potentially toxic depending on the dose.  That’s why the old saying “the dose makes the poison” is so true. Beta carotene is a beneficial chemical naturally occurring (in small amounts) in many fruits and vegetables, but massive doses in supplement form increased the risk of lung cancer in smokers. Huge doses of vitamin E increased the risk of heart problems in heart patients.

Indeed, in an NIH press statement, the authors of the resveratrol study cautioned that “we still have much to learn about resveratrol’s safety and effectiveness in humans.”

Some negative side effects are already known, emphasized one of the study’s authors, Rafael de Cabo, PhD, at NIH. Animal studies have shown that high doses of resveratrol affect blood platelets, which could increase the risk of bleeding when taken with anticoagulant, anti-platelet, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Bottom line on health, resveratrol and diabetes:

There are no long-term studies on humans yet, so why take a chance? In huge doses, resveratrol is no longer a natural compound. It’s a drug. We have no idea what the side effects of taking it are. Resveratrol, like beta carotene and vitamin E, may turn out to cause more harm than good.

What to do:

Don’t get star-struck by the latest “miracle” or “super” food or nutrient that gets promoted in the media.

“Me?” smiles Kimberly. “I’m going to keep eating my favorite foods – fresh fruits and veggies – and plenty of grapes, the natural and healthy source of resveratol. Fresh fruits and veggies don’t make the morning paper’s headlines, but they do provide an abundance of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals proven to help us live longer, healthier lives.

“No single ingredient, resveratol included, can duplicate the nutritional riches – and rewards – of a healthful diet.”

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