test your knowledge
How the world got lost on
the road to an anti-aging pill
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December 27, 2012: by Bill Sardi
For the uninitiated: resveratrol (rez-vair-ah-trol) is known as a red wine molecule that is that is believed to be chiefly, but not solely, responsible for the heart-healthy effects of red wine.
The year 2012 started out with maybe half of all resveratrol pill users abandoning their use after hearing allegations that the leading researcher in the field had committed scientific fraud. The researcher, Dipak Das PhD, working at the University of Connecticut (U CONN), was alleged to have fabricated data to gain research grant money and according to radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, Dr. Das “made it all up” (the science that is).
While over 350 news sources covered the story, they were simply parroting allegations made by a 5-man U CONN review board, a board that concedes it never read the university’s 60,000 page evidence report and could not produce for Dr. Das’ legal counsel the original evidence disc which it said was lost. In fact, U CONN never gave Dr. Das due process and took its website offline when it was challenged to validate various facts that were egregiously inaccurate. But the damage had been done.
The alleged scientific fraud was a boon for the news media. Viewership and readership soared. But news reporters conducted no investigation of their own. A lone journalist at the Hartford, CT Courant was the only reporter to interview Dr. Das.
Butler Shaffer, a teacher of law at Southwestern University, has said “if allegations rise to a sufficient level of heinousness, no defense is conceivable, not even the defense of ‘innocent of the charges alleged.’ Some might even say that the more atrocious the allegations leveled at another, the less evidence that is necessary to sustain the charge, the greater the burden upon the defendant that is necessary to sustain the charges, and the greater the burden upon the defendant to refute and disprove such charges.” Dr. Das intends to file a case against U CONN early in 2013 that will refute all of the allegations against him.
Was U CONN in some way working to slander a researcher who had cooperated with a dietary supplement company?
Why was Rush Limbaugh the final scientific arbiter on this matter? His participation suggests a political agenda. Limbaugh’s network sponsored the Dr. Dean Edell (retired) show. Dr. Edell was the AMA-planted anti-dietary supplement radio mouthpiece. Under review, the scientific evidence against Dr. Das simply didn’t hold water.
Consumers don’t often like to get into these squabbles, knowing they don’t know who to believe.
Despite decades of research showing red wine convincingly lowers the mortality rate for coronary artery disease, and other researchers validating Dr. Das’ experiments in the animal laboratory, U CONN’s and Mr. Limbaugh’s pronouncements were enough to cause many thousands of consumers to back away from using resveratrol pills.
At the time resveratrol pills weren’t even in the top 100-selling dietary supplement ingredients. The prospect of such a pill ever gaining credence as a bona fide anti-aging pill was fading fast.
The idea of a red wine “anti-aging” pill just hasn’t resonated with Americans as it should, often due to the mixed scientific results that are largely explained by researchers’ propensity to overdose their subjects. The whole idea of using resveratrol is explained by biologists to promote a hormesis effect, that is, use of a mild biological stressor (toxin) that triggers the body’s defenses. So why were researchers employing mega-doses unless they were out to disprove the idea from the beginning?
Consumers are waiting for signals from authoritative source like Harvard Medical School, which was previously involved in the development of a resveratrol-based anti-aging drug. But the developmental pharmaceutical company involved in marketing that drug was eventually sold to Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK) for $720 million, and then GSK abandoned any further research after investigators again over-dosed multiple myeloma patients (5000 mg resveratrol) which induced kidney failure. Did the Harvard-based pharmaceutical company pose such a threat to Big Pharma that it bought it out to bury resveratrol forever?
Eight years after resveratrol pills first became popular in 2004 there has not been a single human trial of this molecule for heart disease, the very core of its initial idea as a pill that would avert heart attacks.
To that end, Dr. Dipak Das demonstrated in the animal lab that relatively low-dose resveratrol could turn a mortal heart attack into a non-mortal event. Dr. Das dared to demonstrate that an existing resveratrol dietary supplement (Longevinex®) could out-perform plain resveratrol by micronizing and microencapsulating this light-sensitive molecule and combining it with other natural molecules. Dr. Das even submitted heart tissue samples to researchers at the National Institutes of Health who validated his work in a microRNA analysis. Resveratrol, and more so Longevinex®, had restored the gene pattern in a laboratory mouse’s heart to its pre-heart attack state. Maybe the days of humans dying of sudden mortal heart attacks would soon be over, that is, until U CONN contrived up its allegations against Dr. Das.
By February of 2012 researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) had settled a long-running dispute over the initial gene that resveratrol targets. Early on researchers mistakenly believe the Sirtuin1 gene activated a large number of downstream genes to produce the profound effects demonstrated in the laboratory. NIH investigators discovered resveratrol first targets the gene for the phosphodiesterase-4 gene which in turn activates other genes including Sirtuin1. Of interest, a phosphodiesterase-5 inhibiting drugs are widely used to treat erectile dysfunction.
But inexplicably NIH investigators chose to promote Rolipam, an already FDA-approved drug that targets that same gene. NIH researchers said Rolipam might be less toxic than resveratrol. That would certainly be true for mega-dose resveratrol, which is toxic, but not for low-dose resveratrol.
As an aside, the Longevinex® capsule was found to be completely non-toxic at doses of resveratrol that are toxic to mouse hearts. Were NIH researchers conveniently aiding Big Pharma which has at least a dozen phosphodiesterase-4 drugs under development? Rolipam itself is widely cited to cause headaches, nausea and vomiting which has severely restricted its use.
In March of 2012 once again investigators utilized the human equivalent of 8000 milligrams of resveratrol to demonstrate resveratrol does NOT prolong the life of laboratory animals. You could hear all the resveratrol fans groaning in the grandstands. Humanity was disappointed once again in its quest to find an anti-aging pill.
By April of 2012 resveratrol was found to be an antidote against the deleterious effects of high-fructose corn syrup. About 50% of the sugar intake in western society is derived from high-fructose corn syrup in soft drinks. In the same month, researchers reported resveratrol, as an inhibitor of an enzyme called prostaglandin-D2, could serve as a remedy for baldness. Resveratrol fans were beginning to roar for this molecule once again.
By May of 2012 Canadian researchers had completely re-affirmed resveratrol’s ability to protect heart muscle tissue from damage caused by a heart attack. But that did not serve as vindication for the earlier allegations against Dr. Das, whose published papers are being expunged from scientific journals in what amounts to scientific censorship.
By June of 2012 researchers were reporting resveratrol enhances exercise training by 21%. But reports like these were to only serve to conflict the minds of consumers as more negative reports lay ahead.
Also in June, university researchers announced recruitment for a human study of resveratrol among patients with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. Once again, the study involves mega-dose resveratrol (1000-2000 mg), a dosage range that was found to be toxic in animals.
Attempts by this author to warn these researchers away from such high doses were met with failure. If this study fails due to toxic side effects, you can be sure there will be negative headlines akin to those that were aired when thalidomide caused all those horrible birth defects. This study could be the nail in resveratrol’s coffin because so many of these patients are taking prescription drugs that resveratrol is not compatible with.
In July of 2012 researchers reported that resveratrol acts like an antibiotic, that it inhibits a key enzyme linked to wear-and-tear arthritis, and that a particular brand of resveratrol pill, Longevinex® had been demonstrated to rescue hopeless cases of near-blindness caused by a disease called wet macular degeneration.
Longevinex® worked in cases where drugs failed. Despite the fact Longevinex® improved the vision of 16 of the first 17 cases treated, eye physicians expressed no interest in the product and left an estimated 30,000 patients to progress towards irreversible legal blindness. Is modern medicine so biased towards prescription drugs it would ignore a dietary supplement that could save sight?
By September of 2012 modern medicine was promoting an expensive drug over resveratrol as a way to inhibit inflammation within arteries that leads to disease. It was becoming clearer, day by day, that resveratrol is being thrown under the rug.
By the end of the year a slew of confusing studies were to be reported involving resveratrol.
First, researchers reported that a modest dose of resveratrol (75 mg) did not improve cholesterol levels, insulin sensitivity among non-obese females after 12 weeks of use. Then researchers reported that high-dose resveratrol failed to benefit obese but healthy males over a 4-week period.
Joseph Maroon MD, author of a book about resveratrol, claimed the conclusions of these studies are misleading. Resveratrol helped maintain the health of human subjects during a clinical trial. But regardless, resveratrol pills were once again on the defensive to prove their worth.
There was a positive short-term (30-day) study using 150 milligrams/day of resveratrol among healthy but overweight males. Resveratrol was shown to reduce sleeping and resting metabolic rate, activated key longevity gene, improve muscle energy levels, lowered blood pressure and decreased blood sugar, triglycerides and markers of inflammation.
By November of 2012 researchers reported only 5 of 14 brands of commercially available resveratrol pills provided the labeled amount of resveratrol and only 3 of these 14 brands actually exhibited biological activity. It is an indictment of the poor quality of resveratrol pills on the market today.
Early in December a reporter in the New York Times was salivating over the day when stem cell technology might be used to rejuvenate damaged tissues in the heart, brain and eyes after heart attacks and strokes. Overlooked was a study published in June 2012 which showed that resveratrol succeeded in preserving progenitor cells, which are close descendants of stem cells, in the heart of laboratory animals.
A resveratrol council comprised of researchers and suppliers has now been proposed to help sort out the sometimes confusing science surrounding this molecule.
In the meantime, at least one brand of resveratrol, Longevinex®, has been shown to quell the progression of blindness in hopeless cases of retinal disease that did not respond to drug treatment, has been demonstrated to prevent damage to animal hearts better than plain resveratrol (an experiment that cannot be duplicated in humans for ethical reasons), abolished the first sign of arterial disease in humans far better than plain resveratrol, and has been shown to inhibit new abnormal blood vessel formation (called angiogenesis or neovascularization), which facilitates the growth of solid tumors, six-fold better than plain resveratrol. ####