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
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
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
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
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.
Labs is always a good source to go to when you need unbiased
information about supplements. Here is what they had to say about
“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
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
Dr. Michael O.L. Seabaugh is a licensed clinical
psychologist with a psychotherapy practice in Santa Barbara.
Comment at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit
his web site and blog for more
information on the topics covered in this column.