Resveratrol – Wine Not Take a Miracle Pill to Live Longer?

People who drink red wine in moderation tend to live longer than those who abstain from alcohol completely. Unfortunately, alcohol comes with certain other unwanted effects that you may have noticed from your own experiences late at night or the morning after. Wouldn’t it be great if we could figure out what is in the alcohol that improves health and put it in a pill that couldn’t make you tipsy?

Some hucksters think they have done just that. They are selling resveratrol, a component of red wine that they claim improves longevity, delays the effects of aging, and might even prevent cancer. You can take one little pill to get the equivalent of the resveratrol in 278 five ounce glasses of Pinot Noir. You’ve probably seen the ads. The hype includes claims like “The Secret to Living a Longer, Healthier and More Vibrant Life” and “the Holy Grail of aging research.”

 Science has shown that resveratrol extends the lifespan of nematodes (little wormy critters), yeast, fruit flies, and mice who have been made obese by deliberate over-feeding in the lab. But it has never been tested at allin humans!

Think about this. If a drug company tested an experimental prescription drug candidate on yeast and worms and abnormal mice and then proposed to market it without doing a single clinical trial in humans, the FDA would be ROTFL. And if the FDA did lose their minds and approve it for marketing as a drug, people would be screaming that the FDA was not doing its duty to protect the public. Yet under the infamous Diet Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) resveratrol can be sold without any testing, approval, or inspection process, using the fiction that it is not intended as a medicine but as a food. Gullible people are gobbling up resveratrol and making the hucksters rich. The fond hope of living longer has overcome their common sense.

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This article was originally published in Swift, the online newsletter of the James Randi Educational Foundation.

Dr. Hall is a contributing editor to both Skeptic magazine and the Skeptical Inquirer. She is a weekly contributor to the Science-Based Medicine Blog and is one of its editors. She has also contributed to Quackwatch and to a number of other respected journals and publications. She is the author of Women Aren’t Supposed to Fly: The Memoirs of a Female Flight Surgeon and co-author of the textbook, Consumer Health: A Guide to Intelligent Decisions.

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