Resveratrol is a natural compound found in several plants, with some of the highest levels in red wine and peanuts. Resveratrol is considered a calorie restriction (CR) mimetic and the hope is like CR that this compound will extend lifespan. I previously covered resveratrol here and here.
A paper that came out in 2006 (Baur et al., 2006) examined mice on a high fat diet (unhealthy) and found that the group that received the resveratrol supplement lived longer than the high fat fed control mice.
The most recent paper (Pearson et al., 2008) examined the more important question of does resveratrol extend the lifespan of mice on a normal (healthy) diet ? To the researchers credit they did not start the treatment (resveratrol) until 12 months of age (middle age for mice). The researchers did find that the mice that did receive the resveratrol supplement had increased arotic elasticity (a good thing), and several other measurements of heart health, along with greater motor coordination and reduced cataract formation compared to the control mice. However, the supplement did not extend lifespan. The researchers went on to try higher doses to see if that would make a difference but it did not. In fact the higher doses ended up reducing the previous reported effect on lifespan on mice on a high fat diet. This suggest that the researchers did have the right dose in the main part of the experiment and that simple suggestion that a higher dose would change the effect is not true.
Now I read a comment by one of the authors that suggested that the problem with this study is that mice tend to die of cancer (which is true) and not die from heart problems while humans die from heart disease. Therefore, he expected that resveratrol will possibly extend lifespan in humans. He failed to mention that cancer is responsible for roughly the same percentage of death in humans as heart/cardiovascular. However, he may have a point since cardiovascular disease is very low in mice and researchers in the field use either a high fat diet and/or genetic models of mice to examine cardiovascular disease.
The take home message is that resveratrol may preseve heart health in aging mice but not overall lifespan. The question then becomes if you have genetic or current heart health risk factors should you take resveratrol? The other question is the high cost of reaching human equivalent doses as these various mice studies. I am sure futher studies will give us more information and there are several new resveratrol compounds in the pipeline.
(ps – almost finished the second heart rate measurements installment.)