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Resveratrol May Reduce Inflammation, Help Diabetes

Resveratrol, the plant extract and potent anti-inflammatory previously shown to extend the survival of lower animal life, seems to reduce inflammation in humans as well. A reduction in blood vessel inflammation can help prevent development of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and other health problems…

Some people are familiar with resveratrol as a supplement used to fight aging. Thus far, however, the only scientific studies to demonstrate this benefit have occurred using yeast, worms, fruit flies, fish and mice. Prolonged life has been attributed to resveratrol’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.  

In the new study, which was conducted at the University of Buffalo, NY, Paresh Dandona, MD, PhD, distinguished professor of medicine and senior author of the study, noted that no data exist on the impact of resveratrol on oxidative and inflammatory stress in people. Resveratrol is also believed to have a role in insulin resistance, which is related to oxidative stress.

Therefore, the researchers “decided to determine if the compound reduces the level of oxidative and inflammatory stress in humans.” This was the first prospective trial of resveratrol in humans conducted by endocrinologists at the university.

The study involved 20 volunteers randomized into two groups: 10 people received 40 mg resveratrol once daily for six weeks, and 10 received placebo. Researchers collected fasting blood samples at baseline and at weeks 1, 3, and 6.

The blood samples collected from volunteers who took resveratrol showed that the phytonutrient suppressed the generation of free radicals, which cause oxidative stress and release factors that promote inflammation, which in turn damage the lining of blood vessels.

The samples from those who took resveratrol also revealed suppression of other compounds that interfere with insulin action, resulting in an increased risk of developing diabetes. Blood samples from the subjects who took placebo, however, did not show any changes in pro-inflammatory factors.

Resveratrol is produced naturally by several plants, including red grape skins, red wine, peanuts, blueberries, bilberries, and cranberries. It is also extracted from Japanese knotweed and used as a nutritional supplement.

In addition to studies on resveratrol and aging, other research has suggested the phytonutrient may provide other benefits. One study, for example, found that resveratrol improved symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease, while another indicated it may help prevent blindness.

The results of this latest study, while promising, did not eliminate the possibility that another element in the extract, besides resveratrol, was responsible for reducing inflammation, since the scientists used a product that was only 20 percent resveratrol. However, Dandona noted they intend to conduct further studies using purer formulations of resveratrol.

Wood JG et al. Nature 2004 Aug 5; 430(7000): 686-69