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  • Response to journal report regarding consumer demand for resveratrol

    September 2, 2015: by Bill Sardi

    To: Jessica Aschemann-Witzel,
    MAPP Centre—Research on Value Creation in the Food Sector,
    Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark.

    From: Bill Sardi, Resveratrol Partners LLC, Las Vegas, NV (

    After reading the report entitled “Resveratrol and health from a consumer perspective” as published in the August 2015 issue of the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (abstract at bottom), I offer the following comments:

    1. After continual headline news reports extolling the proposed health benefits of resveratrol, this herbal dietary supplement does not even register in the top 100-selling herbal products in the USA. (Spins Data)
    2. The repeated exposure in the news media has spawned over 477 competing brands of resveratrol supplements. There is oversupply and under-demand. [Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database]
    3. The entire scientific community is working to develop patentable resveratrol analogs and therefore seeks to undermine resveratrol’s health benefits until their synthetic version of the molecule is marketed as a drug.
    4. Furthermore, the scientific community continues to errantly claim resveratrol is not bioavailable when there is considerable scientific evidence to the contrary, and therefore synthetic resveratrol-like molecules need to be developed. While it is true almost all resveratrol is intercepted by the liver detoxification system and conjugated with detox molecules (glucuronate, sulfate), these liver metabolites have been found to be equally biologically active as free unbound resveratrol. Furthermore, at sites of inflammation, infection and malignancy, resveratrol is enzymatically (glucuronidase) released from its carrier molecule and becomes free unbound resveratrol. [Science Translational Medicine 2013; Molecular Nutrition Food Research 2013; Chembiochem 2013; Journal Pharmaceutical Science 2004]
    5. Micronization of resveratrol increases blood plasma resveratrol levels by 3.6-fold but few brands micronize their product. [Cancer Prevention Research 2011;]
    6. In your report there was no mention how the scientific community unfairly accused and condemned a leading resveratrol researcher of scientific fraud in 2012, an event that killed demand for this wonder molecule. Current scientific studies exonerate that researcher. [ Sept 25, 2013]
    7. It is difficult to sell a product that may result in longer life but may not produce an experienced improvement in health. As Thomas Fuller said in the 1600s: “sickness is felt, but health not at all.”
    8. Just how do consumers really know resveratrol will live up to its promise that they will live longer taking a resveratrol pill? There can be no assurance of this. Only a human study encompassing many decades would provide conclusive proof of this. Even if such an impractical study could be completed, results would likely materialize only after most adults alive today would have died.
    9. How do you develop consumer demand for a dietary supplement that could eliminate a lot of doctoring when the very population it is targeted for relies upon confirmation by their uninformed doctors to give them permission to use such a product?
    10. Just what kind of evidence or endorsement would convince doctors and the public that resveratrol is worthwhile? Millions of Americans take a baby aspirin (81 mg) on the mistaken promise it will prevent a clotting coronary artery heart attack. Aspirin is endorsed by the American Heart Association yet the FDA has issued a bulletin saying that benefit only pertains to adults who have already had a heart attack and not healthy adults. Full strength (325 mg) induces bleeding gastric ulcers and brain hemorrhages, which represents disease substitution. Meanwhile, resveratrol not only inhibits blood clots in coronary arteries [International Journal Food Science Nutrition 2011] but also dilates (widens) blood vessels via creation of nitric oxide [American Journal Physiology Heart Circulation Physiology 2006] and also activates the well-documented biological phenomenon of cardiac preconditioning where it generates endogenous antioxidants prior to a heart attack, considered the best form of protection against heart muscle damage. [Molecular Nutrition Food Research March 2015] Resveratrol also protects against gastric ulcers. [Free Radical Research 2009;
    11. There is no available crossover data comparing wine drinkers and resveratrol users. About two-thirds of Americans drink alcohol while about 40% drink no alcohol at all. Only about 30% of Americans drink one glass of wine a week – the definition of a “wine drinker” in the U.S. But it is the core wine-drinking segment—20 percent of the population, representing 46 million U.S. adults. These core wine drinkers consume wine daily (9 percent), several times a week (29 percent) or about once a week (19 percent) while marginal drinkers are those who drink wine less often than weekly—the greatest number of whom drink wine two to three times a month. Marginal wine drinkers represent 31 million U.S. adults, making the total of U.S. wine consumers 77 million. There is no information available as to whether teetotalers use resveratrol because it is non-alcoholic or whether wine drinkers are more or less likely to use resveratrol supplements. [Wine Market Council 2011 Windows on the World Complete Wine Course – Google books]

    While alcohol itself exhibits some heart-protective properties, wine exerts unusual and distinctive cardio-protection. [Journal Surgical Research 2012]

    1. There is obvious foot-dragging over human studies. Despite the obvious relationship between red-wine derived resveratrol and the French paradox, the fact the French have higher cholesterol numbers but a far low mortality rate for coronary heart disease than North Americans, there has not been a single human study commissioned by the National Institutes of Health for use of resveratrol to prevent or treat heart disease. Human studies are long overdue. [Current Atherosclerosis Reports 2011]
    2. There is a regulatory conflict as any resveratrol supplement found to prevent, treat or cure any human disease would be reclassified as a drug, which would therefore reduce its affordability.
    3. There is suppression of science. For example, an animal study published in 2008 revealed that a particular brand resveratrol pill closely mimicked the epigenetic effect of a lifespan-doubling calorie restricted diet. Yet no mention is made of that study. [Experimental Gerontology 2008]
    4. There is widespread consumer unfamiliarity. Most consumers cannot even pronounce resveratrol (rez-vair-ah-trol). More than a decade after a Harvard professor created news headlines over the prospect of resveratrol as an anti-aging pill, the masses are still unacquainted with it.
    5. There is a prevalent consumer idea that any resveratrol pill will do. Resveratrol does not produce the same health benefits as wine. Wine provides an array of molecules known as polyphenols that have been shown to work synergistically. Dosage per serving varies widely from brand to brand (25 mg to 1000 mg). Lower dosage activates internal antioxidants via the Nrf2 gene switch while mega doses are potentially cytotoxic, particularly in the kidneys. [Trends Neuroscience 2006] Most manufacturers of resveratrol pills are oblivious to this fact and market mega-dose brands as “more for your money.” Resveratrol is degraded by exposure to light, but there is little or no effort made to protect resveratrol from light exposure prior to manufacturing or post packaging. [] Some less concentrated herbal extracts of resveratrol (25%, 50% resveratrol) contain emodin, a molecule that can induce loose stool. [Journal Agriculture Food Chemistry 2014] Only a handful of resveratrol brands have been limitedly tested in humans and only one has undergone dose and toxicity testing as suggested by the FDA. [Experimental Clinical Cardiology 2010; Food & Chemical Toxicology 2013]
    6. From a safety standpoint, there were no reported serious side effects or deaths reported for phytoestrogens, a class of botanical supplements which includes resveratrol as reported in the 2013 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System (NPDS): 31st Annual Report. [Clinical Toxicology 2014]

    From a consumer standpoint, the future of resveratrol is clouded by self-interest, scientific misrepresentation, lack of dosing data, a dearth of human studies, and a scientific community that disregards natural over synthetic molecules.

    Annals New York Academy Science. 2015 Aug; 1348 (1): 171-9. doi: 10.1111/nyas.12867.

    Resveratrol and health from a consumer perspective: perception, attitude, and adoption of a new functional ingredient.

    Aschemann-Witzel J1, Grunert KG1.

    1MAPP Centre-Research on Value Creation in the Food Sector, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark University, Aarhus, Denmark


    Resveratrol is an ingredient widely researched, with growing evidence of health-promoting effects. However, the reactions of supplement or food consumers to resveratrol has not been researched, and the ingredient is yet unknown to most consumers. We used respective literature and our own resveratrol consumer studies with Danish and U.S. consumers to look at current findings and future research directions for three questions. (1) Which factors determine consumer interest in a yet unknown functional ingredient such as resveratrol? (2) How should resveratrol be marketed as a new functional ingredient to be understood and favorably perceived? (3) What could be the effects of adoption of an ingredient such as resveratrol on the healthy lifestyle of a consumer? Literature and first results indicate that personal relevance and familiarity are crucial factors; however, consumers show little interest in resveratrol and lack relevant knowledge, especially in Denmark. Favorable attitudes were explained by health outcome expectations, use of complementary and alternative medicine, and interest in the indulgence dimension of food. Non-scientifically phrased communication led to more favorable attitudes in Danish consumers; scientifically phrased communication, though, made U.S. consumers more likely to retain favorable attitudes in the presence of contradictory evidence. We discuss future research directions in different cultural backgrounds and market contexts and for different foods.

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