Recently, I have been reporting on “Longevity Factors,” those lifestyle changes that have been proven to extend our lifespan. They all require effort, which most of us in our modern determined health-conscious ways are willing to expend. (Really, how hard is it to remember to wear sunscreen every day — even when it is cloudy — or have a daily bowel movement?)
These efforts — some more difficult than others — still leave many of us pining for the assurance of ever-lasting vitality once popularly made by the elixir Geritol. I remember watching those ads on our black-and-white television and thinking that when I became “old” — like 40 — there was help to be had. But alas, Geritrol, which promised to enrich “iron-poor, tired blood,” is based on a theory that has been widely discredited.
There may be some hope on the horizon for Geritol nostalgics. It is a nutritional plant supplement called “Resveratrol” and it has been getting lots of press lately. The always-reliable researchers at the National Institute on Aging and Harvard Medical School broke this story last month in Nature and the internet has been abuzz about it ever since.
When researchers gave this substance to a group of middle-aged mice, the animals could gorge on a high-fat diet and stave off diabetes and fatty livers. This was compared to a similar group of mice who were given the same diet but not the Resveratrol. This second group of mice became pre-diabetic with enlarged livers. Especially interesting is that the Resveratrol-imbibing mice lived significantly longer — in mice years — than those other fatsos. In fact, the Resveratrol-pumped up mice gained more stamina as they aged!
So how do you score some of this amazing age-defying potion?
It is found in the skin of grapes and, conveniently for those who are full of Holiday cheer, in red wine as well.
Resveratrol is a polyphenol, the good antioxidant stuff abundant in wine that has elevated it to a health drink. Antioxidants, you may recall, reduce the damage to our cells from those age-accelerating free radicals. That makes it the natural enemy of heart disease, cancer and even Alzheimer’s. The trouble is that you would have to drink 1,000 liters of wine per day to attain beneficial levels of Resveratrol. Even I am not up for that one.
It is early but research is booming on this substance. It hasn’t been established what is the right dosage and even if it is safe for humans. Authors of the study, Doctors. Baur and de Cabo, seem optimistic when quoted in Nature as saying that a pill form of Resveratrol “at doses achievable in humans can safely reduce many of the negative consequences of excess caloric intake, with an overall improvement in health and survival.”
You can score some Resveratrol in pill form already. Lazy Acres sells a couple formulations and they report that it is flying off the shelves. The supplement I bought there claims to have 366 mgs. of Resveratrol from grape seed, grape skin and green tea extracts as well as something called Tiger Cane.
Consumer Labs is always a good source to go to when you need unbiased information about supplements. Here is what they had to say about Resveratrol.
“The promotion of Resveratrol far exceeds its base of clinical research. In fact, no human studies evaluating the potential benefits or risks of Resveratrol supplements have been reported. However, animal research of Resveratrol has demonstrated anti-aging and athletic endurance-enhancing activities. Test tube experiments with Resveratrol have demonstrated antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, antiplatelet, cholesterol-lowering, and mild estrogenic activities”
Those of you who are ready to jump on the longevity train will no doubt start popping these pills. But if you are the cautious sort, you may want to heed Consumer Lab’s recommendation to “stay tuned.”
Dr. Michael O.L. Seabaugh is a licensed clinical psychologist with a psychotherapy practice in Santa Barbara. Comment at email@example.com and visit his web site and blog for more information on the topics covered in this column.