test your knowledge
How the world got lost on
the road to an anti-aging pill
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February 5, 2012: by Bill Sardi
Unless you are a died-in-the-wool resveratrol pill user, you are likely having doubts over whether you should continue taking these so-called red wine pills now that the science published by a leading researcher in the field has been called into question (more about that below). Strangely enough, the science behind resveratrol’s miraculous ability to protect the human heart is very well founded, but when did solid science ever influence consumers anyway?
The record shows consumers of resveratrol pills are more likely to fall for a phony sales pitch rather than phony science. Except for a brief period in 2009 when online spammers falsely claimed their products were endorsed by Oprah Winfrey, pandered resveratrol pills as a cure-all for whatever ails mankind, made free bottle offers that came with fine print and unwanted monthly $85 credit card billings for more resveratrol pills and sold millions of bottles of these pills, consumers of dietary supplements have not widely adopted resveratrol pills into their daily pill regimens and appear to be paying a steep price for it with their lives.
Compare resveratrol with statin drugs. While cardiologists look directly into the eyes of their patients and admonish them if they do not take statin cholesterol-lowering drugs, saying the consequences could be death, there is simply no evidence that statin drugs prevent mortal heart attacks among healthy adults. Harvard Professor John Abramson reviewed the ten largest statin drug studies and found these pills do not reduce mortality rates among healthy adults. Even among high-risk individuals, 70 patients need to take statin drugs for 5 years to prevent one non-mortal heart attack. Up to 250 low-risk adults must take statin drugs to prevent one non-mortal heart attack over a 5-year period.
Also, aspirin tablets, the most relied-upon preventive measure against mortal heart attacks, may not be working as advertised. This revelation comes on the heels of a recent scientific review showing aspirin, the most relied-upon preventive measure against heart attacks, does not avert mortal heart stoppages, only non-mortal attacks.
Resveratrol pills remain mired as the 109th best-selling dietary supplement despite its promise as a miracle molecule. Now resveratrol pill sales are plunging with word a resveratrol researcher allegedly faked his experiments. While these allegations have no bearing on the scientific conclusions that were drawn – that resveratrol can potentially turn mortal heart attacks into non-mortal events, there is a major pause in resveratrol pill sales as consumers wonder if these pills are a waste of their money.
There is no shortage of supply. According to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, there are nearly 350 brands of resveratrol pills. But most of these companies sell less than $50,000 of resveratrol pills or potions at wholesale price in an entire year. It’s hardly a booming business.
Most brands of resveratrol pills rely upon borrowed science, hoping that tomorrow’s news headlines about the latest advance in resveratrol science will make them rich. But few brands have ventured to put their products to the test. Ironically, good science doesn’t equate with sales, so it doesn’t pay for pill makers to spend money on science.
The false appearance of science is what sells. All online spammers had to do is misleadingly claim their pills were shown on the Oprah Winfrey TV show and that Dr. Oz blessed them, and that Harvard Medical School had apparently studied them, and lure consumers with bogus free bottle offers, and sales of these fermented grape pills temporarily boomed. Sadly, resveratrol is fast becoming another fad like coral calcium or hoodia.
Most consumers choose brands based upon price. The big-box discount stores mount up a great deal of the resveratrol pill business, but these economical brands often only pretend to provide resveratrol. Based upon animal lab experiments, the dose of resveratrol required to avert a mortal heart attack is somewhere in the range of 50-350 milligrams, with higher doses actually worsening the damage to the heart in laboratory experiments. But many mega-dose resveratrol pills are widely promoted as “more for your money,” About 90% of purchases of resveratrol pills are for untested brands and about 70% provide the wrong dose to fully benefit.
Evaluate the level of enthusiasm among cardiologists in the following statements:
“The potential public health benefits are huge. It really changes the way we have to think about prevention of heart attack and stroke.”
~ Paul M. Ridker of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston
“It’s a breakthrough study, it’s a blockbuster. It’s absolutely paradigm-shifting.”
~ Steven E. Nissen of the Cleveland Clinic
(These are the words drug companies want to hear.)
“This takes prevention to a whole new level.”
~ W. Douglas Weaver,
president of the American College of Cardiology
“These are findings that are really going to impact the practice of cardiology in the country.”
~ Dr. Elizabeth G. Nabel,
director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which was not involved in the research
Were these leading cardiologists expressing their enthusiasm over resveratrol? No, they were talking about a new and more powerful statin drug. Modern cardiology has expressed little or no interest in resveratrol, despite its unique mechanism to insulate humans from a mortal heart attack.
The mechanism that protects the human heart when taking resveratrol pills is not like aspirin. Aspirin is best taken during a heart attack to thin the blood and break up a clot that is blocking blood circulation to the heart. Resveratrol works in a different manner.
Actually, resveratrol is perceived as something slightly noxious to the heart which triggers defenses and provokes release of antioxidant molecules that protect the heart prior to a heart attack. This is a unique protective mechanism called cardioprotection or preconditioning. Cardiologists first noticed this when they induced small heart attacks in animals which had a life-sparing effect for a major heart attack that followed.
It is not like modern cardiology does not know what cardiac preconditioning is. Cardiologists have been talking about it for years. Cardiac preconditioning has been known since its discovery in 1986. It is widely practiced prior to heart surgery. Cardiac surgeons use a pressure cuff on extremities to intentionally create a slight shortage of oxygen (called ischemia) just prior to heart surgery to trigger the heart’s defenses to produce protective antioxidants. This is done in an effort to avoid deaths on the operating table. Some heart surgeons administer adenosine, an antioxidant that is released during cardiac preconditioning, instead of using a pressure cuff to produce the same effect.
Dr Alberto Bertelli of Italy was one the pioneers to demonstrate how resveratrol protects the heart prior to a heart attack by releasing protective antioxidants, namely adenosine and nitric oxide. This animal experiment, conducted over a decade ago, is a landmark study. It showed that an infusion of resveratrol increases the natural release of adenosine by 68%. Other researchers have also shown that resveratrol remarkably limits the damage to the heart during a blockage in a coronary artery and increases survival in animals. More remarkably, even if resveratrol is administered to a heart attack patient after the event it should limit damage to the heart and reduce the risk of mortality.
In 2006 a paper was published in the Annals of Cardiology and Angiology (Paris) under the title: “Cardiologists are living through exciting times.” That report said short bouts of repeated exposure to ischemia (lack of oxygen) protects the heart against a serious heart attack. These French cardiologists described how they looked forward to the day when “cardiologists are fully awoken to the idea of preventing heart muscle cell death” that occurs when circulation is re-established to a blocked coronary artery and oxygenated blood creates a massive amount of oxygen free-radicals that damage the tissue.
However, cardiology is talking out of two sides of its mouth. It will practice preconditioning just prior to heart surgery, but it hasn’t taken to the idea of using resveratrol pill, which is a proven preconditioning agent, to prevent mortal heart attacks altogether.
A Brown University researcher expounds on the promise of resveratrol to prevent deaths associated with coronary artery disease and says: “extensive research in the past several decades has identified multiple mechanisms by which resveratrol modifies the cardiovascular risk factors that lead to coronary artery disease, yet translation to the clinical arena has been unexpectedly slow…. To date, there have been no clinical trials investigating the effect of resveratrol on cardiovascular risk or co-morbidities.” Translation: modern cardiology is dragging its feet.
Cardiology has had sufficient evidence for over a decade that resveratrol convincingly turns mortal heart attacks in the animal lab into non-mortal events. But it hasn’t been able to muster up one human clinical study involving resveratrol in all this time. Millions of at-risk patients may be needlessly dying.
In 2008 cardiologists in Australia disingenuously said “there remains a paucity of evidence that this protective paradigm is clinically exploitable.” Inexplicably, cardiologists are reluctant to launch a study using resveratrol in humans to prove or disprove this.
Now for the zinger. While there have been strong accusations of scientific fraud against a University of Connecticut heart researcher who demonstrated in animals that a carefully measured dose of resveratrol can turn a mortal heart attack in animal into a non-mortal event, not one of the prior scientific studies I’ve cited herein involved that same researcher.
But not to matter, radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, referring to the accused researcher, said: “He just made it up! He literally just made it up.” The science involving resveratrol and the heart is not made-up science. Modern cardiology is showing its true colors here. It loathes to put resveratrol to the test while demanding human studies be performed. Don’t run to any cardiologist and ask if any of this is true, you will get a predictable answer that it is still unproven.
Over 2200 Americans die prematurely of heart and blood vessel disease each day, one every 39 seconds. A blockage in a coronary artery, that feeds the heart with oxygenated blood, causes over 400,000 deaths annually (2007 data). Less than an estimated 100,000 Americans take resveratrol pills daily out of an at-risk population of over 100 million American adults over age 50, less than 1/10th of one-percent of the at-risk population.
Unless the public makes a bee line for resveratrol pills in a self-guided effort to prevent mortal heart attacks it is going to miss out on one of nature’s most remarkable molecules, a molecule that can save millions of lives.
Does resveratrol really prevent mortal heart attacks in humans? Nate E. Lebowitz, MD, FACC, Director of Preventive Cardiology at the Advanced Cardiology Institute, a division of Hackensack University Medical Center Cardiovascular Partners in New Jersey, in writing to the American Heart Association, said: “I have started to see patients taking a resveratrol pill, anecdotal as it may be, who exhibit literally the same heart-sparing effect during a heart attack that has been demonstrated in mice.”
Ed Skonezny, age 70, may have resveratrol to thank for his life. Ed had none of the common symptoms of coronary artery disease. He was regularly driving a golf ball over 280 yards off the tea at his Palm Desert, California golf resort home. But a routine angiogram (dye test of coronary arteries that supply the heart with oxygenated blood) revealed narrowed coronary arteries, probably caused by a prior smoking habit conquered years ago. One major coronary artery was 99% blocked, four others partially, yet Ed experienced no angina chest pain and no damage (scarring) to his heart. Heart surgeons performed open heart surgery on this man who had no symptoms. His doctors were totally baffled.
Ed had been taking a resveratrol pill for the past few years, a resveratrol pill that had been shown in animal experiments to convert mortal heart attacks into non-mortal events. In an animal study conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health, this microencapsulated and micronized brand of resveratrol pill (Longevinex®) protected the heart prior to a blockage in a coronary artery and restored a normal gene activation pattern to heart muscle twice as well as plain resveratrol. Copyright 2012 Bill Sardi, ResveratrolNews.com
The recent checkered past of resveratrol is presented below (Resveratrol Meter) with up-arrows (⇧) identifying positive information that gained public attention, while down-arrows (⇩) signify negative information that has created consumer doubt or confusion. It’s been a rocky public relations road for resveratrol.
⇧Nov. 17, 1991, CBS’s “60 Minutes” broadcasts a report on the correlation between consumption of red wine in France and lower rates of heart disease. Shortage of red wine reported that year in USA.
⇧Jan 1997: Researcher John M Pezzuto searches the planet for natural anti-cancer molecules, analyzes 30,000 molecules for anti-cancer properties; advises cancer researchers to study resveratrol, the most promising of all.
⇧Sept 2003: Harvard professor David Sinclair and Konrad Howitz of Biomol make link between sirtuin1 survival gene, longevity produced by calorie-restricted diets and resveratrol, a red wine molecule. Discovery is covered widely in Wall Street Journal, NY Times, etc.
⇩Aug 2007: Researchers Matt Kaeberlein and Brian Kennedy cannot duplicate earlier Howitz/Sinclair activation of Sirtuin1 survival gene with resveratrol. It is found that a dye used in the gene activation test stimulated this gene, not resveratrol. Resveratrol continues to astound, but its gene target is questioned.
⇧April 22, 2008: GlaxoSmithKline announces purchase of Sirtris Pharmaceuticals and its experimental resveratrol-based drug, SRT501, plus synthetic “new chemical entities” for $725 million.
⇩July 2008: Leonard Guarente of MIT reports a calorie restricted diet does not activate the sirtuin1 survival gene in all tissues and organs, making it an unreliable marker as a longevity gene. Resveratrol is still miracle molecule but its gene target is in question. A major advantage of resveratrol is its ability to affect many genes, not single genes.
⇩Aug 2008: High-dose resveratrol fails to prolong the life of laboratory mice on a normal calorie diet.
⇧Jan 25, 2009: CBS’ 60-Minutes TV program revisits the topic of red wine and health and focuses on a special molecule – resveratrol. The idea of a resveratrol pill to prolong human life is presented. A university researcher interviewed on the program fails to report that his lab tested a particular brand of resveratrol pill that activated 9-fold more genes in laboratory mice than plain resveratrol.
⇧Dr. Oz appears on Oprah TV show extolling resveratrol as an anti-aging pill.
⇩Spammers flood computers all over the world with misleading claims their brand of resveratrol was shown on the Oprah Show and Google allows these online scammers to make deceptive sales pitches that their resveratrol pills cure cancer, remedy wrinkles, produce weight loss, etc. A leading online site attracts 833,000 visitors in a month selling a 30-day supply trial bottle of resveratrol for $2.94 which is too tempting for most consumers. Consumers fall for this offer but don’t read the small type that they will be shipped and billed $85/month thereafter for resveratrol pills. This becomes the only upsurge in consumer demand for resveratrol pills.
⇩On August 19, 2009, Harpo, Inc., producers of The Oprah Winfrey Show and The Dr. Oz Show, along with Dr. Mehmet Oz, filed a trademark infringement complaint against 40 Internet marketers of dietary supplements, for using their names as a false endorsement for their products.
⇩Cancer researchers employ mega-dose (5000 mg) resveratrol among terminal bone marrow (multiple myeloma) cancer patients and are forced to halt the study due to immediate kidney failure experienced by the patients.
⇩August 12, 2010: Two former Sirtris Pharmaceutical executives begin selling resveratrol as a dietary supplement. GlaxoSmithKline, who purchased Sirtris, halts sale of resveratrol supplement and censures its executives.
⇩Dec 1, 2010: GlaxoSmithKline announces it will discontinue research & development of its SRT501 resveratrol-based drug.
⇧Nov 2011: Researchers report a 30-day trial of resveratrol mimics metabolic health benefits of a calorie restricted diet in humans.
⇩Jan 2012: Pall is cast over resveratrol research as a University of Connecticut releases document alleging leading resveratrol scientist has committed scientific fraud. The science in question would not have altered the conclusions of the research studies that were published, yet news reporters trash the whole idea of taking resveratrol pills. The research in question has no bearing on the fact resveratrol can potentially turn mortal heart attacks into non-mortal events, a fact that goes overlooked in the controversy.
Copyright 2012 Bill Sardi, ResveratrolNews.com