Turning Back the Hands of Time May Be Just a Sip —or a Pill —Away.
Nearly 500 years ago Spanish explorer, Don Juan Ponce de Leon, arrived in what is now Florida in quest of a mythical fountain of youth. Today,
many of us in South Beach have found something resembling it, but it’s tougher than Ponce de Leon imagined— it means exercise to tone the body, clean living to avoid the I’ve-partied-too-much, Keith Richards look, and a little maintenance with occasional Botox and fillers (more on their latest developments in next month’s column) to make our faces look permanently Photoshopped.
But science has recently discovered an anti-aging breakthrough that would make Ponce de Leon turn green with envy. It’s resveratrol, a component of red wine, the main reason it is said that drink has benefits (except for discoloring our teeth, but thank goodness for whitening toothpastes and an occasional one- hour blast in a BriteSmile salon).
In recent lab experiments, scientists discovered that resveratrol, also found in grapes, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries and peanuts, extends the life of mice by at least 30 percent—why do scientists always pick on those poor little mice?—and also helps reduce obesity and fights diabetes. It turns out that resveratrol revs up our metabolism, making muscles burn more energy and work more efficiently. With resveratrol, we work out with a reduced heart rate, just like elite athletes. Again, the mice lead the way. A typical mouse can run a kilometer before collapsing in exhaustion, but one pumped up on resveratrol can double that, and without breathing heavy. French doctor and geneticist Johan Auwerx has concluded that for real people “resveratrol makes you like a trained athlete without the training.” Cool. And it gives us faster metabolism—think thin, girls—which every failed diet pill has promised. Resveratrol even neutralizes the effects of high-fat, high-calorie diets, so if you can’t give up the double bacon cheeseburger and fries, at least down it with red wine.
Ever hear that Europeans who adhere to a so- called “Mediterranean diet”—one with lots of fish and poultry, fruits, vegetables, grains and olive oil—have less heart disease, are leaner and live longer than Americans? That’s despite the higher fat in their diet. Not surprising to learn that they drink more red wine than people just about anywhere else. After 60 Minutes’ 1991 report about this apparent paradox, red- wine sales surged, growing from 17 percent of the market to 42 percent last year.
So that’s the good news about red wine, and its key ingredient, resveratrol: the promise of longevity, less degenerative disease and the possibility of becoming a champion athlete without all the work. Too good to be true? No. The latest scientific evidence is persuasive. The problem is that the amounts used in lab tests were megadoses. You would have to drink hundreds of glasses of red wine daily to get the benefit. (I know a few people who would gladly try to do that, but I don’t recommend it unless you have plenty of training and stamina.) The fact that it’s not possible to drink enough wine to replicate the lab results might not register with many people who will read only the headlines but skip the details.
In the U.S., winemakers are handcuffed by old laws from the 1933 repeal of Prohibition that ban them from promoting or advertising health benefits. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms aggressively moves to stop winemakers who try to herald the health advantages. Doesn’t the ATF have anything better to do, like chasing somebody stockpiling hand grenades and machine guns? Oh, well, all the legal stuff means that red-wine makers have to stay mum about resveratrol.
But all is not lost for those of us who want an easier way to live long. The laws don’t limit vitamin and supplement makers, and they have been aggressively marketing resveratrol extracts for years. My husband, Gerald, and I have been taking resveratrol daily for about five years, and we’re still here, so that’s not a bad sign. But even the supplements can’t deliver the amounts used in the lab tests, though they have become more potent over time. Resveratrol is potentially an uber-supplement, so don’t be cheap by looking for it at your local dollar outlet store. Go for top brands, available everywhere from Whole Foods Market and Wild Oats Markets to stores such as The Vitamin Shoppe and Vitamin World.
We also order from the web. One of our faves is vitacost.com, which has its own brand, NSI. Its pill has 200 milligrams of resveratrol, certainly easier than downing a few glasses of red wine, although admittedly not as much fun. Our other favorite is a French company, longevinex.com, which specializes in resveratrol. It’s more expensive than others, but it’s considered the Rolls-Royce of supplements—even scientific researchers often use its resveratrol. Its web- site discloses that the resveratrol used in its supplements is research-grade and combined in a proprietary blend that is the subject of a pending patent. Even the capsules are put through an exclusive, patented, airtight nitrogen-encapsulation process that prolongs resveratrol’s shelf life and delivers it so that it is supercharged in your body. In independent tests, Longevinex supplements delivered the amount of resveratrol it advertised, whereas others often fell far below their claims. Longevinex, whose demand for its pill is up 2,400 percent since November 1st, is adamant that each of its supplements packs the same punch as drinking five to 15 five-ounce glasses of red wine!
But even Longevinex can’t deliver the megadoses scientists say will mimic the fountain of youth. Still, many researchers believe that even low doses help, and that the longer you take resveratrol, the more its cumulative benefits will kick in. So it might not make you live to 100, but 90 isn’t bad. And while you might not run a four-minute mile, easily finishing a marathon In less than four hours is great.
What do you have to lose? Even the most expensive resveratrol supplement runs less than a dollar a day. You can’t get a shot of espresso at Starbucks for that. And when I see you at a local bar, I’ll swap resveratrol pills that we can swallow with nice glasses of Pinot Noir. Cheers.