Resveratrol may not offer health benefits to healthy women

October 30, 2012

A study published in Cell Metabolism shows that resveratrol, an ingredient in red wine thought to improve insulin sensitivity, reduce risk of heart disease, and increase longevity, may not offer these benefits in healthy women.

The study involved 29 post-menopausal women who did not have type 2 diabetes and who were reasonably healthy. For 12 weeks, 15 took an over-the-counter 75 mg resveratrol supplement (the same as drinking 8 L of red wine), and the rest got a placebo, or sugar pill. The team measured the women’s sensitivity to insulin and the rate of glucose uptake in their muscles, infusing insulin into their bodies and measuring their metabolic response to different doses.

The researchers were unable to detect any effect of resveratrol. In addition, they took small samples of muscle and fat tissue from these women to look for possible effects of resveratrol in the body’s cells, and again, could not find any changes in the signaling pathways involved in metabolism.

“Resveratrol supplements have become popular because studies in cell systems and rodents show that resveratrol can improve metabolic function and prevent or reverse certain health problems like diabetes, heart disease and even cancer,” said senior investigator Samuel Klein, Director of Washington University’s Center for Human Nutrition. “But our data demonstrate that resveratrol supplementation does not have metabolic benefits in relatively healthy, middle-aged women.”

“Few studies have evaluated the effects of resveratrol in people,” continued Klein. “Those studies were conducted in people with diabetes, older adults with impaired glucose tolerance or obese people who had more metabolic problems than the women we studied. So it is possible that resveratrol could have beneficial effects in people who are more metabolically abnormal than the subjects who participated in the study.”