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The truth behind the resveratrol hype

By Lee Euler / February 9, 2011

Anti-aging miracle or just another antioxidant?

You’ve probably heard or read news blurbs about the health benefits of the red wine compound resveratrol. Scientific studies show this powerful antioxidant can protect you from heart problems.

But research also shows this top-notch heart helper can also stop cancer from forming—and even kill a variety of existing cancer cells.

According to the National Cancer Institute, resveratrol is one of a category of plant compounds called polyphenols. You’ll find high concentrations of resveratrol in red wine, grapes, raspberries, peanuts, and other plants.

In fact, these and other plants produce resveratrol to protect themselves from fungus, infection and disease. And this same compound can help prevent cell damage and protect humans from diseases too.

Scientists have discovered that resveratrol is a strong antioxidant that helps protect your cells from damaging free radicals.

Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules that steal electrons from other cells to become more stable. Cells with missing electrons become damaged and unstable—which can make you vulnerable to diseases such as cancer.

But research shows resveratrol has the power to stop the damage that free radicals inflict on cells. That helps prevent the formation of cancer cells.

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Here’s What the Science Says So Far…

According to a study published in the July 1st, 2008 issue of Cancer Prevention Research1, Doctors Ercole Cavalieri and Eleanor Rogen of the University of Nebraska Medical Center wanted to determine how resveratrol might impact the formation of cancer cells.

The researchers tested a blend of resveratrol, the amino acid n-acetyl-l-cysteine, lipoic acid, and melatonin. They found that adding resveratrol greatly enhanced the body’s natural protective mechanisms.

In their study these scientists tested the formula with and without resveratrol. They found that adding resveratrol greatly reduced the formation of breast cancer cells.

More studies are underway to see how resveratrol affects the initiation, promotion, and progression of cancer. In addition to killing breast cancer cells, studies have shown so far that resveratrol could be an effective way to:

1. Blast neuroblastoma

Neuroblastoma is a disease of the sympathetic nervous system and the most common cancer during infancy. It’s a type of brain cancer that tragically affects babies and toddlers. Standard treatments of radiation and chemotherapy are often ineffective and have serious side effects. Most of the time the conventional treatments fail.

According to study results published in Clinical Cancer Research2, researchers tested resveratrol on mouse models of human neuroblastoma and in vitro (test tubes) using human cells. They found that resveratrol inhibited the outgrowth of tumors by as much as 80%!

It will be wonderful if those results hold up in real humans with brain cancer.

2. Eliminate eye cancer

One animal study3 showed resveratrol administered orally and by injection caused eye cancer cells (uveal melanoma) to shrivel and die.

3. Pulverize prostate cancer cells

Several studies have demonstrated that resveratrol might prevent or diminish prostate cancer severity. In one study that examined different types of prostate cancer cells4, resveratrol was the most potent of all polyphenols tested against advanced prostate cancer cells.

4. Save skin from melanoma cancer

In a 2005 study5, researchers at the University of Wisconsin, Department of Dermatology, applied resveratrol to the skin of hairless mice prior to sun exposure. The mice treated with resveratrol experienced fewer skin tumors than mice that did not receive the treatment. Researchers also found that applying resveratrol to skin after exposure to ultraviolet rays helped prevent skin tumors.

Although laboratory tests show resveratrol might help prevent both cardiovascular disease and cancer, don’t bet the farm that it’s the ultimate cancer cure…

Noted medical author Dr. Stephen Barrett, M.D. points out that most resveratrol research focuses on short-term effects. Plus, he notes that most studies are performed in labs on non-human models — either on animals or in vitro (that is, on cell cultures).

Barrett expresses concern about the lack of information on how your body absorbs and processes resveratrol—or even about ways in which it may affect your liver. I’m not sure these caveats are that important, but I agree we’re short of solid proof that resveratrol is a major new weapon against cancer.

What bothers me most is this: there are a great many antioxidants. Is resveratrol all that unique and special? We don’t really know. And as for getting it by drinking wine. . .

Is red wine now a food supplement?

It’s important to remember that red wine is the most popular food source of resveratrol. Largely because of the resveratrol studies, red wine has been touted as practically a magic elixir. Many people think they’ve been handed a “get out of jail free” card where their drinking is concerned.

I don’t remember where, but a few years ago I came across a French study showing that heavy red wine consumption over a long period of time drastically cut your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. But the amount of wine needed was way more than is healthy.

If you think wine has now been declared a food supplement, I’d say , “Hold on a minute.” Increasing red wine consumption to boost resveratrol intake could eventually cause liver damage and addiction!

Also, there’s a tendency to assume that resveratrol is the “magic ingredient” in red wine, but wine contains many other compounds and we can’t be sure the dramatic results are due to resveratrol alone.

Drink to your health?

In fact, it’s not clear where the research is headed on the relationship between alcohol consumption and good health. Beer and hard liquor don’t contain resveratrol. But it appears that “moderate” drinking — beer, spirits OR wine, take your pick — will keep you alive longer. And at this point experts don’t know why.

That’s from Chapter Three of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, just released on January 31. The Guidelines tell us, “Alcohol consumption may have beneficial effects when consumed in moderation (up to two drinks daily). Strong evidence from observational studies has shown that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.”

The key finding is, “Moderate alcohol consumption also is associated with reduced risk of all-cause mortality among middle-aged and older adults and may help to keep cognitive function [i.e. your brain] intact with age.”

Two drinks each and every day doesn’t strike me as moderate, but I admit it might be safe for most people. Also, there’s the problem that the Dept. of Agriculture is famous for circulating idiotic advice about what to eat. For all I know the “scientists” responsible for this finding have ties to the booze and wine industry. That’s pretty much the modus operandi among people like that.

I mention the USDA’s opinion on alcohol because it adds fuel to the red wine fad, and resveratrol is usually considered the reason red wine is healthy. The news from the USDA suggests there’s more going on than just resveratrol.

Because he’s not sure about the quality of resveratrol supplements, Barrett suggests occasional use of red wine—along with a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and veggies—could be a safe way to enjoy some of resveratrol’s health benefits.

On the whole, I vote for supplements as the way to go, with a little wine now and then (NOT two glasses a day). My take is that resveratrol is a very good antioxidant. The few cancer/resveratrol studies that exist are very encouraging. But I don’t think it’s a magic bullet. If you’d like to try it, click here for a product from one of our loyal supporters.

Best regards,

Lee Euler,
Publisher

References:
1 Lu,F., Zahid, M. et al. 2008. Resveratrol Prevents Estrogen-DNA Adduct Formation and Neoplastic Transformation in MCF-10F Cells.Retrieved 1/28/11 from http://cancerpreventionresearch.aacrjournals.org/content/1/2/135.abstract
2 van Ginkel, P.R., Sareen, D.et al. Resveratrol inhibits tumor growth of human neuroblastoma and mediates apoptosis by directly targeting mitochondria.Clin Cancer Res 2007;13:5162-5169.
3 van Ginkel, P.R., Darjatmoko, S.R., et al. Resveratrol inhibits uveal melanoma tumor growth via early mitochondrial dysfunction. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2008 Apr;49(4):1299-306. Retrieved 1/28/11 fromhttp://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18385041
4 Kampa M, Hatzoglou A, Notas G, et al. Wine antioxidant polyphenols inhibit the proliferation of human prostate cancer cell lines. Nutr Cancer. 2000;37(2):223-33.
5 Aziz, M.H., Afaq, F. and Ahmad N. Photochem Photobiol. 2005 Jan-Feb;81(1):25-31. Retrieved 1/28/11 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15469386
Additional resources:
1 Barrett, S. 2009. Resveratrol: Don’t Buy the Hype. Retrieved 1/31/11 from http://www.quackwatch.com/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/DSH/resveratrol.html
2 National Cancer Institute. 2002. Red Wine and Cancer Prevention: Fact Sheet. Retrieved 1/28/2011 from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/red-wine-and-cancer-prevention
About the author

Lee Euler

Hi I'm Lee Euler, I’ve spent over a decade investigating every possible way a person can beat cancer. In fact, our commitment to defeating cancer has made us the world’s #1 publisher of information about Alternative Cancer Treatments -- with over 20 books and 700 newsletters on the subject. If you haven't heard about all your cancer options, or if you want to make sure you don’t miss even one answer to this terrible disease, then join our newsletter. When you do, I'll keep you informed each week about the hundreds of alternative cancer treatments that people are using to cure cancer all over the world.

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