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Balintfy: Welcome to episode 152 of NIH Research Radio. NIH Research Radio bringing you news and information about the ongoing medical research at the National Institutes of Health – NIH…Turning Discovery Into Health ®. I’m your host Joe Balintfy, and coming up in this episode, new understanding about resveratrol, that compound found in red wine.

Balintfy: You may have heard of resveratrol, it’s a chemical found in red wine and other plant products like grapes and nuts. It’s been studied a lot, mostly in mice because of health and longevity that’s been associated with it. Now researchers are finding that the effects of resveratrol seem to be more complicated than originally thought. Dr. Jay H. Chung, a senior investigator at NIH, says research published over the past few years has shown that feeding resveratrol to obese mice protected them against diet-induced obesity, as well as some of its consequences.

Chung: Resveratrol has been associated with a number of different helpful effects such as extending the lifespan in lower animals as well as protecting against aging-related metabolic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes.

Balintfy: The chemical has received significant interest from pharmaceutical companies for its potential to combat diabetes, inflammation, and cancer. But Dr. Chung says before researchers can transform resveratrol into a safe and effective medicine, they need to know exactly how it works on a cellular level.

Chung: It’s possible that plant-based foods or chemicals can affect cells and physiology by a number of different ways.

Balintfy: Resveratrol was originally thought to directly activate a particular protein called SIRT1, which is associated with aging. Dr. Chung explains that it actually affects enzymes that help regulate energy.

Chung: So our new study shows that resveratrol can activate another group of proteins called phosphodiesterases, which degrade a chemical called cyclic AMP, and in doing so, it activated SIRT1 and also reproduced the health benefits of resveratrol.

Balintfy: Dr. Chung notes that resveratrol in its natural form interacts with many proteins, and may cause not-yet-known toxicities as a medicine, particularly with long-term use.

Chung: Resveratrol has a number of other targets that may or may not be good for you and no long-term studies have been done with humans.

Balintfy: He adds that the levels of resveratrol found in wine or foods are likely not high enough to produce significant health benefits or problems.

Chung: Studies that have shown effects in humans usually required about a gram of resveratrol, pure resveratrol. So you probably won’t get that kind of effect drinking red wine.

Balintfy: Convincing clinical studies in humans have used about 1 gram of resveratrol per day, roughly equal to the amount found in 667 bottles of red wine.

Chung: The question is how about supplements? It’s not clear how pure these supplements are. They could say 150 milligrams but it’s not clear whether it’s pure 150 milligrams of resveratrol.

Balintfy: Researchers emphasize that there is a clear need for additional careful and well-controlled studies to show how resveratrol operates. This latest study in mice appears in the journal Cell. For more information on the findings, visit

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This page last modified September 24, 2017