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The red wine-derived antioxidant resveratrol has never lived up to its hype. Recently Danish researchers have even found that it seems to cancel out the benefits of exercise, at least in older men.

About ten years ago, the antioxidant resveratrol was seen as the answer to many of the world's most pressing medical problems. Found in the skins of red grapes and actually produced commercially from the roots of a weed called Japanese knotweed, resveratrol was publicized as having extraordinary benefits in extending longevity.

A Miracle Drug for Yeast, Fruit Flies, and Lab Rats

First, two groups of researchers showed that resveratrol could extend the life of yeast cells grown in a test tube. Then two groups of researchers showed that the antioxidant could extend the life span of fruit flies, and yet another team of researchers found that it could extend the life of a species of especially short-lived fish. 

In 2006, a group of researchers announced that mice fed a diet of 60% fat, most of the fat calories coming from coconut oil, 30% more calories than mice were ordinarily fed, were 30% less likely to die of the complications of obesity than similarly fed mice if they were also given resveratrol. Still more studies found that resveratrol seemed to slow down the progression of a condition analogous to Alzheimer's disease in mice, reduced inflammation when rabbits had acetone dabbed on their paws, prevented the activation of herpes infections in laboratory animals, and helped rats overcome their addiction to opiates (drugs in the same class as oxycodone and Vicodin).

Tremendously Beneficial for Isolated Brain and Vascular Cells

Studies found that resveratrol stopped the growth of the kind of cells that form a tough cap on cholesterol in the linings of arteries. It stopped the progression of cancer cells grown in a test tube. It seemed to act on cells in the same way as calorie deprivation during fasting. One of the principal researchers into the science of resveratrol sold his rights to the pharmaceutical application of the product to giant drug maker Glaxo-Smith-Kline for $735 million.

And not once has resveratrol ever been proven to have any benefits in actual people. Moreover, no study has ever been done to show that is safe.

In this context, it is perhaps not surprising that a team of researchers at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark recently published findings that when a group of older men at risk of heart disease was given the wonder-supplement, resveratrol actually seemed to cancel out the heart-healthy benefits of exercise. In the Danish study, 65-year-old men were actually better off if they didn't take the supposedly amazing longevity supplement. Here's what the Danish study found.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • Gliemann L, Schmidt JF, Olesen J, Biensø RS, Peronard SL, Grandjean SU, Mortensen SP, Nyberg M, Bangsbo J, Pilegaard H, Hellsten Y. Resveratrol Blunts the Positive Effects of Exercise Training on Cardiovascular Health in Aged Men. J Physiol. 2013 Jul 22.
  • Lombardo F, Lunghi R, Pallotti F, Palumbo A, Senofonte G, Cefaloni AC, Gandini L, Lenzi A. Effects of a dietary supplement on cholesterol in subjects with moderate hypercholesterolemia.Clin Ter. 2013 May-Jun.164(3):e147-50. doi: 10.7417/CT.2013.1556.
  • Photo courtesy of Andreanna Moya Photography by Flickr :
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