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Resveratrol Hopes Premature

March 22, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 12

Resveratrol, a component of red wine and Japanese knotweed, is reported to have the potential to treat a number of diseases from stroke to cancer and to increase longevity (C&EN, Dec. 14, 2009, page 36). Aside from a few pharmacokinetic studies, however, such findings have been seen only in mice and rats.

First, although compounds occasionally work wonderfully in animal models, they face a challenge in humans. David A. Sinclair's paper (Nature 2003, 425, 191), which was mentioned in the C&EN article, shows an interesting correlation with sirtuin activation, but resveratrol may be acting through multiple pathways.

Second, a 4-oz glass of wine contains less than 2 mg of resveratrol, depending on wine, but daily multigram quantities of resveratrol would be required for these animal experimental effects to be translated in humans.

Third, and most important, it would be a great challenge to get resveratrol or its analogs into clinical trials because of poor bioavailability. There may be other minor constituents in red wine (waiting to be discovered) that might be responsible for these effects, known as the "French paradox."

There is no reason to get excited about resveratrol just yet. More studies on it and its analogs are needed before there can be clinical trials. I agree with Matt R. Kaeberlein's summary: "There's a lot of interesting stuff going on with resveratrol and a lot of interesting stuff going on with the sirtuins. How it fits together is the big question."

Ved Pathak
San Diego


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