The Friday Fermentable: The Resveratrol Supplement Supplement

You just never know - some weeks you don't get The Friday Fermentable; other weeks you get two posts.

Well, several readers gave me the heads up this week about an NPR story about resveratrol supplements. You may remember that this is the chemical present in red wine that kills cancer cells in culture and, as we discussed here, extends the lifespan in yeast when used at extremely high concentrations.

Turns out that our analytical chemistry colleagues at have revealed that a great many resveratrol supplements don't even come close to having the labeled amounts of the chemical: reported today that its tests of supplements containing resveratrol -- a compound promoted as "life-extending" -- revealed two products providing only 27% and 58% of their listed amounts of resveratrol. A third product, which boasted several hundred milligrams of a "red wine grape complex," contained only two milligrams of resveratrol.

Lovely. So as I've said before, you either have to drink a hundred bottles of wine or take dozens of resveratrol pills/capsules to even have a chance of getting levels in your blood that might have biological action. The folks put some hard numbers to this:

To obtain 100 mg of resveratrol from any product, the cost ranged from as little as $0.20 to as much as $45.57 -- more than a 22,000% difference. Using the lowest cost product that passed's testing, the daily cost for a dose of 300 to 400 mg would be $0.60 to $0.80 per day. To get that dose from any of the products with single digit milligram amounts of resveratrol would be impractical -- requiring hundreds of pills per day and costing as much as $159.

For now, just save your money. Even if the products contained the labeled amounts, you'd still have to work very hard to take enough of the supplements to do any good.

So, is there any positive news in this story?

None of the products were contaminated with lead or cadmium, which can occur in plant-based supplements.

Well, at least they seem to be safer than toys from China.

More like this

Now this is bloody lovely: supplement consumer watchdog reports that some multivitamin supplements are contaminated with lead, with one at concentrations 10 times above acceptable California exposure limits. Jacqueline Stenson at MSNBC does a good job of putting this all in…
This issue was brought up by my fellow blogger, Joseph at Corpus Callosum, following an article in yesterday's LA Times. For those not familiar with the concept or countries other than the US where laws may differ, generic drugs are those with the same active chemical as the originally-approved "…
For several years, various media outlets have asked my opinion about herbal medicine and dietary supplement issues. I've generally written several pages of responses only to find a few key quotes mined from my paragraphs of wisdom (in my mind). No problem at all; I just have trouble with churning…
Regular readers know that I hold equivocal views of the broad area of dietary supplements, particularly botanical supplements. On one hand, I have seen some great new compounds come from the systematic investigation of herbal and fungal concoctions to the point that 25% of prescription drugs are…