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The Truth About Resveratrol

August 20, 2018 Reviewed by Marta 0 Comments

Not since the near mass hysteria that followed the "French Paradox" item, which aired on 60 Minutes (can you believe that it was in 1991?), has red wine been so hot. Or, to be more precise, resveratrol. In the past 10 years (after a kickstart from Dr. Oz), it has become increasingly popular in skincare. Recently I have come across some compelling new derivatives. It's time to get under the skin of resveratrol.

The bottom line — for those with short attention spans, or perhaps just better things to do such as pour themselves are glass of Zin — is that resveratrol lives up to most of its hype. It is an anti-ager and antioxidant. And a pretty powerful one. Most scientists agree that it is one helluva molecule. But there is one little wrinkle. Getting resveratrol, which is found in red grape skins, into our bodies takes more than a swig of table wine with dinner.

Part of the problem is that it takes a lot of resveratrol to have any significant impact. A 2006 study on resveratrol-fed mice  - which demonstrated that mammals that consumed resveratrol aged more slowly - grabbed headlines around the world and is in large part responsible for everyone equating red grapes with longevity. But the catch was that the mice were given the human equivalent of 1,500 bottles of wine a day. Subsequent studies have had good results with only a few hundred bottles — but even for enthusiastic wine drinker such as myself, this is several hundred too many.

Resveratrol supplements abound and we are encouraged to think that they are in some concentrated form that means we can forego the liver damage route. Except there is another little snagette. Resveratrol is extremely well absorbed by the body and then ejected. Various tests have shown that resveratrol quickly winds up in urine. For example, when six healthy men and women took an oral dose of 25 mg of trans-resveratrol, only traces of the unchanged resveratrol were detected in plasma (blood). This puts a bit of a downer on the whole resveratrol miracle because (apart from the mice) all the other clinical trials that helped put grape skin on the anti-aging map had been conducted in petri dishes.

Topical resveratrol

For us wrinkle warriors, there is some excellent news. Topically, it works. A study in 2008 concluded that "delivery via a skin route may be a potent way to achieve the therapeutic effects of resveratrol". In another study on hairless mice, a single topical application of resveratrol significantly inhibited UVB-mediated phototoxicity and enhanced skin thickness. Yet other studies have shown that topically applied, its free radical scavenging abilities do a power of good against skin cancer.


Piceid (also called polydatin), is a natural precursor of resveratrol and the most abundant form of resveratrol in nature. It is isolated from the bark of picea sitchensis, a conifer and may be detected in grape, peanut, hops, red wine and cacao. As well as being anti-inflammatory and antioxidant (source), it is also a treatment for hyperpigmentation.

Scientists have compared piceid with trans-resveratrol. Piceid does better at scavenging activity against hydroxyl radicals. While resveratrol showed a significant protective effect against H2O2-induced cell damage. (source).

Specifically, regarding hyperpigmentation, animal studies have shown that resveratrol-enriched rice down-regulated melanogenesis (source). A 2014 study using a topical solution of resveratrol showed even better results by significantly decreasing hyperpigmentation (source). The effects of piceid on hyperpigmentation and inhibition of tyrosinase activity were better than those of arbutin (source).

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