Resveratrol is a well-known antioxidant and anti-aging compound found in wine, fruits like pomegranate, some nuts, green teas, cocoa and dark chocolate.
Typically associated with grapes and red wine, health experts believe resveratrol may be the reason why the French enjoy excellent heart health even though they eat rich, fattening food, smoke a lot and love to drink red wine.
Indeed, resveratrol has been shown to protect the body from damaging molecules that trigger harmful inflammation.
Hailed as an anti-aging miracle ever since studies showed that it could successfully extend the lifespan of mice, resveratrol has shown mixed results in humans. While it has been somewhat effective in reducing risk for heart disease, it has worked less well in other conditions.
In the past few years, resveratrol has also been studied for its effects on metabolism and glucose tolerance - as well as its exciting potential to trigger weight loss.
In a small randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled study published in 2011, Dutch researchers found that obese men who took 150 mg of resveratrol daily had lower blood sugar, decreased liver fat and lower blood pressure (BP) after just 30 days. While these men did not lose body mass during the period of the study, these kinds of metabolic changes are typically associated with weight loss over time.
Similarly, a French study published in 2010 had shown that resveratrol had a significant effect on the body mass of primates known as mouse lemurs. These lemurs typically gain a lot of weight as winter approaches.
However, they ate significantly less and gained less weight during a four-week period when their food was supplemented with resveratrol. Interestingly, the lemurs’ body temperature and resting metabolic rate was affected by the resveratrol, suggesting that it was boosting their metabolism.
The problem is that while animal data are usually very convincing, what actually happens when resveratrol is given to humans turns out to be very different.
For example, when another group of researchers conducted a study similar to the Dutch study in normal weight people, resveratrol showed no effects on metabolism at all.
However, a new study seems to confirm that resveratrol enhances energy production and prolongs lifespan by direct activation of a protein that promotes health and longevity in animal models. This means that synthetic drugs similar to resveratrol may potentially treat and prevent diseases related to aging in the future.
Whatever happens, resveratrol is already being used in a number of weight loss supplements - and health experts are actively investigating its potential to treat diabetes, insulin resistance and obesity.