Learn the truth about Oprah, Dr. Oz and resveratrol.
What it is: A natural chemical found in red wine, grapes, and peanuts, and one of the reasons these foods are considered good for you. It's also sold as a supplement.
Why the buzz: Resveratrol has lengthened life span in worms, fruit flies, and fish. Harvard Medical School associate professor of pathology David Sinclair, PhD, and his colleagues announced that resveratrol counteracted the harmful effects of overeating in mice, cutting the risk of early death by 31 percent.
The science: When Sinclair put middle-aged mice on a super-high-fat diet plus daily concentrated doses of resveratrol (in human terms, the dose was roughly what you'd find in 100 bottles of red wine, 28,000 grapes, or 900 cups of peanuts), the mice grew chubby, but their livers looked healthy; the livers of mice on the same menu minus the supplement became bloated with fat. The compound also prevented a rise in blood sugar and insulin, and blocked a slew of other negative responses that usually go hand in hand with a high-calorie diet. The protective effects meant the resveratrol eaters lived longer—just as long as lean mice on a standard diet. And they were more nimble at walking and balancing into old age, says study coauthor Rafael de Cabo, PhD, of the National Institute on Aging.
That's nice, but: There's no guarantee people would benefit the same way mice do, says longevity expert Steven Austad, PhD, a biologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. Human studies are needed. And there's no evidence that the supplements are safe for long-term use.
Should you take it? In media interviews, Sinclair has admitted to experimenting on himself by using resveratrol pills, but he doesn't advocate that others take the same risk. We should know more about the supplements' effects soon: A new study is under way in which diabetes patients have been taking the pills.