October 30

Flashback Friday: The Best Source of Resveratrol

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Yeah: “Alcohol is a neurotoxin which can cause brain damage.” Yeah, alcohol can cause cancer. And so, perhaps the consumption of alcohol cannot be considered a healthy lifestyle choice, since it’s “an addictive carcinogen.” But, cancer is only killer #2. Killer #1 is heart disease. And so, what about the French paradox? Doesn’t moderate drinking protect against cardiovascular disease?

As I’ve explained before, there apparently is no French paradox—it seems to have been all been just a scam. But that’s what started the whole “resveratrol fiasco.” One episode on 60 Minutes suggested the red-wine component resveratrol may account for the French paradox, and “research took off.” Even after it turned out there was “no French paradox,” research continued unabated, culminating in “10,000 scientific publications” to date.

And what did they find? “[A]fter more than 20 years of well-funded research, resveratrol has no proven human activity.” “One salient theme that consistently arises throughout this voluminous body of work underscores the fact that data from human studies…is sorely lacking, despite [resveratrol’s] popularity as [a dietary’ supplement.” “[T]he hype in the popular media regarding resveratrol…may indeed turn out to be nothing more than a slight-of-hand marketing device using…non-human research as a cover.”

When you see graphics like this, they’re based on laboratory animal studies at massive doses, tens of milligrams per pound. So, if you do the math, that’s where so-called “experts” arrive at suggestions for a gram a day for people. Okay, so, how much red wine do you have to drink to get that much? Oh, just like 5,000 cups a day, or a couple thousand gallons of white wine a day, or 5,000 pounds of apples or grapes, or maybe 50,000 pounds of peanuts—that is one big PB&J—or a couple thousand pounds of chocolate. Start out with a million bottles of beer on the wall.

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Of course, it doesn’t help matters when a leading resveratrol researcher is “found guilty of 145 counts of fabrication and falsification of data,” throwing the whole field into turmoil. “Wine may only be good,” this translates to, “for those who sell it.”

“The resveratrol fiasco is not the only” time dietary supplements have failed to fulfill their promise. “Notable examples include…beta-carotene” pills and fish oil capsules, where studies in the 90s showed taking beta-carotene in pill form actually increased cancer risk, and, in 2013, the shift on fish oil supplements “from ‘No Proof of Effectiveness’ to ‘Proof of No Effectiveness’”—”[t]he main lesson [being] that what makes biological sense and works in test tubes and [lab rats] does not always operate in humans.”

After all, resveratrol is only one of tens of thousands of components identified. Thinking in terms of “whole…food[s]…may be a better approach for health and disease prevention.” Like, instead of one chemical in wine extracted from grapes, how about just eating the whole grape? “[F]or the prevention of diseases, the [whole] dietary grape seems to be the best-case scenario.”

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