Friday, February 3, 2012

My Candid Opinion on Resveratrol Supplements

Today's post is in honor of your heart. After all, it's National Heart Month, so I'm helping you watch out for your heart (and the rest of your precious organs), as I watch out for my own.......

I don't get it!

Source: iStockPhoto

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I do not understand the obsession with antioxidant supplements. I'm not talking about multivitamins that contain antioxidants, I'm talking single-antioxidant supplements (specifically high-doses) like beta-carotene, vitamin E, resveratrol, etc. There are certain ones I am ok with, such as a lower dose (around 500-1000 mg) of vitamin C to "enhance immunity" (although the research really isn't there) but overall I don't think it's safe to take a single-dose antioxidant pill, because our bodies weren't made to consume antioxidants in that way. The best way to get antioxidants, in my opinion, is to eat FOOD! The following foods are loaded with different types of antioxidants;



Sweet Potatoes





Did you know that there are still thousands, if not millions, of antioxidants that have yet to be discovered? You could be eating them right now, and they could be working with the other antioxidants in your foods to provide the benefits that we already know about. You can not get those same benefits from a single-dose antioxidant supplement.

Source: iStockPhoto

In other words, antioxidants work in synergy with other nutrients/antioxidants, and our bodies weren't designed to get large doses of antioxidants by themselves.
In fact, our bodies have a very unique antioxidant system of it's own, and when it needs to make antioxidants, it does, and there are even certain times when we need things like free radicals (the very things that antioxidants prevent and/or destroy) to sent messages to our body and alert them of damage.


Consequently, organisms contain a complex network of antioxidant
metabolites and enzymes that work together to prevent oxidative damage to cellular components such as DNA, proteins and lipids.[1][14] In general, antioxidant systems either prevent these reactive species from being formed, or remove them before they can damage vital components of the cell.[1][13] However, since reactive oxygen species do have useful functions in cells, such as redox signaling, the function of antioxidant systems is not to remove oxidants entirely, but instead to keep them at an optimum level.[15]

If we consume too many antioxidants (in pill form) and destroy those free radicals, who will send the message that damage has occurred? The perfect example of this problem was found in the beta-carotene study tested beta-carotene supplements to see if they effectively prevented cancer in smokers In short, the beta-carotene supplements increased the rate of lung cancer in smokers. Also this study showed that high-doses of vitamin E increased risk of dying. No thanks.

This brings me to the reason why I simply do not understand resveratrol supplements. The idea to test resveratrol came from witnessing that the French have a lower rate of coronary heart disease than Americans, despite a high intake of saturated fat. Today's Dietitian wrote a fabulous article on Resveratrol in their latest issue. It was noted that the French drink considerably more red wine than Americans, so fast forward many years of research, and resveratrol is in the spotlight. Resveratrol is a phytonutrient (plant nutrient) with antioxidant properties, and it's found mainly in red grapes, red wine, certain berries, and peanuts (read the article in Today's Dietitian to find our more about resveratrol's mechanism of action). Studies on resveratrol have been shown to help protect against everything from heart disease, to cancer, to Alzheimer's disease. Oh yeah, and it may also make fat men fitter.

Source: iStockPhoto

That's all well and good, but here are the problems I see......

1. Drugs need years and years of research before they go on the market, and even then we often find that long-term effects are not what we thought. Supplements require zero research before going on the market. Case in point; more research (and not just on animals) is needed before I would ever suggest a resveratrol supplement! And I'm not talking about research from this man who clearly faked much of his research on resveratrol (who knew research could be faked?! haha, I did! Well, maybe not faked, but manipulated). I'd rather not risk my life on hope, personally.

Source: iStockPhoto

2. Here is the part I really don't understand. The French Paradox. Why are researchers studying the effect of high doses of resveratrol, when one 5-ounce glass of red wine contains as little as .06 and as much as 1.89 mg resveratrol?! NO ONE IN FRANCE/SPAIN/ITALY IS DRINKING ENOUGH WINE TO GET EVEN CLOSE TO THE AMOUNT USED IN RESEARCH AND FOUND IN SUPPLEMENTS!! So why are we testing such large doses ?? If red wine is truly benefiting the health of the French and others in that area, than why not make pills with the amount of resveratrol that equals the average daily consumption of the French?! Why must more always be assumed to be better?!

Source: iStockPhoto

I can't drink red wine because it contains FODMAPS, so personally I wouldn't mind a resveratrol supplement that contained the same amount of resveratrol as 1-2 cups of red wine (~3 mg, not 20-1000 mg!). To me, that makes more sense (although I probably still wouldn't take it). That would equal two glasses of wine, minus the alcohol. I'll make up for the health benefit of alcohol by taking my 3mg resveratrol with a shot of vodka.
How about that for good science?

I'm curious, what are your thoughts on antioxidant supplements? Would you ever take a 20mg resveratrol pill? Would you take a 100-200 mg one?


  1. I don't want to say I'm not a believer of supplements, but for otherwise healthy individuals...I guess I am. I think it IS very well researched that antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals are best coming from actual food sources, in addition to every point you mentioned. As usual, people take the notion of something being "good" and knock it up so much that I feel it poses more potential risk than harm. Ahhh! Great post, girl! Can't wait to see you me a time maybe? I'm assuming you have to work, but I could be wrong! Can't wait!

  2. *more potential risk than benefit...whoops!

  3. I don't think I would take an antioxidant supplement.

    I do take a multivitamin and calcium pills every day - and during the winter I typically take an emergen-c every day (I work with college kids who are always sick). But that's it.

    I would rather eat more fruits and veggies - the way nature intended!

  4. Not after reading this! Very well written. I don't personally take antioxidant supplements, but I had no idea that all of these things were true.

    Great post!

  5. I completely agree with you! I don't take antioxidants and I wouldn't. Like you said, they are not well researched, and I don't think more is always better with these things. Also, like you said- there is more things in the food that we might not even know about, and maybe those additional things are REALLY the great part... who knows!

    I do take a multivitamin and calcium, and ultimate omega, but beyond that I try to eat lots of good food!

  6. I'm going to send this to my mom-- she takes resveratrol supplements! I definitely agree that food is the best way to go when it comes to antioxidants.

  7. Wow, this is a very comprehensive piece, Gina. I've never had an antioxidant supplement, and I don't ingest any supplements. I find them unnecessary since I get in a wide range of food.

  8. You have put some time into this...I'm impressed!
    FOOD FIRST...agree!!!!
    ' I'll make up for the health benefit of alcohol by taking my 3mg resveratrol with a shot of vodka.
    How about that for good science?' I LOVE IT!!!! :) I'd do that shot with you if you were a little closer! Happy weekend,great article!!!

  9. I totally agree - eat food! :-) All the foods that are high in antioxidants are so delicious!

  10. Although I do take a few supplements, including ubiquinol which is an antioxidant, I agree with you about getting antioxidants from a variety of foods, especially as you say there are SO many undiscovered compounds present in the foods we eat. I'd love to join you and Teri for that vodka shot and mini resveratrol pill :-)

  11. I had been looking forward to reading this post but didn't have time until now...

    I see so many problems with supplements, even vitamin supplements. I think it's just too easy for people to get lazy with their diet and depend on a supplement. (Having said that, I do take some vitamins as "insurance.") And high dose antioxidant supplements are yet another story as they can be potentially dangerous as you point out.

    And is it just me or is it pretty obvious that there is much more to the "French paradox" than simply the wine? Yet that seems to be the main focal point everyone is looking at...

  12. Great post Gina, great analysis. Have never contemplated reservatrol supplements(lie- maybe intrigued by initial studies) but then again I do get reservatrol via....all the grapes in my diet (kidding). A pill or a glass of merlot- no contest for me.

  13. Very informative post. Thanks for taking the time to share your view with us. resveratrol