Resveratrol Does Not Reduce CVD Risk, Prolong Life

May 14, 2014

BALTIMORE, MD — Long-term follow-up data of older individuals living in the Tuscany region of Italy suggest the polyphenol resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, grapes, and dark chocolate, does not increase longevity or reduce the risk of heart disease or cancer[1].

Resveratrol has been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in vitro and in animal models and has been postulated to be behind the health benefits of red wine, but this latest study, published online May 12, 2014 in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Internal Medicine, casts large doubt on its health benefits.

"The results were initially surprising to us, but when we looked back at the literature, we realized that it was kind of a leap of faith to go from mice models and cellular work to supposing that resveratrol was going to extend lifespan in humans and protect against disease," said lead investigator Dr Richard Semba (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD). "This is really the first time it's been rigorously put to the test."

The study, known as the Aging in the Chianti Region study, included principal investigator Dr Luigi Ferrucci, a geriatrician who is now the scientific director of the National Institute on Aging. The institute, explained Semba, is concerned with high-priority issues related to healthy aging, and one issue, among others, that has arisen in recent years has been the possible health benefits of resveratrol.

"We thought this would be an ideal opportunity to go back to the samples that were collected," Semba told heartwire . "Luckily we had 24-hour urine samples, so we could do a gold-standard measurement of the participants' resveratrol intake by looking at metabolites in the urine."

The researchers published nine-year follow-up data of 783 men and women aged 65 years and older living in two small towns in the Chianti wine-producing region of Tuscany. After nine years, 34.2% of the participants died. After adjustment for multiple variables, including age, sex, body-mass index, lipid levels, and comorbidities, among others, total urinary resveratrol concentrations were not associated with mortality.

Of the 783 participants, 639 were free of cardiovascular disease at baseline. During follow-up, 27.2% went on to develop cardiovascular disease. Across the quartiles of resveratrol concentrations, ranging from lowest to the highest, the incidence of cardiovascular disease was 22.3%, 29.6%, 28.4%, and 28.0% (p=0.44).

Similarly, there was no association between resveratrol concentrations and cancer risk, nor was there any association with inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP), tissue necrosis factor (TNF), interleukin-6, and interleukin-1ß.

To heartwire , Semba said he believes their analysis will likely "close the book" on the health benefits of dietary-acquired resveratrol. There are other studies examining possible benefits of resveratrol supplementation, studies that are not related to the present analysis. While the resveratrol-supplementation industry is big business in the US, with annual sales of $30 million, clinical studies involving supplementation have been inconclusive to date, he added.

In terms of patient recommendations, Semba offered a simple one, that patients can continue to enjoy red wine in moderation, but it isn't going to help them live longer or protect them against heart disease and cancer.

In 2012, the research community involved in studying the health benefits of resveratrol were dismayed when Dr Dipak Das, at the time affiliated with the University of Connecticut and the director of its cardiovascular research center, was found guilty of 145 counts of fabricating and falsifying data. In published papers, 19 of which were later retracted, Das, a long-time proponent of resveratrol and its cardiovascular benefits, asserted the compound was linked to heart health.

Das was fired from the University of Connecticut in May 2012 and promptly filed a $35-million lawsuit against the university, citing libel.

Das died, however, in 2013.

Semba and colleagues report no conflicts of interest.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.