Computing the Ideal Amount of Resveratrol

Q Following the publication of a study on the use of resveratrol in mice to improve their health and maximum lifespan, the press reported that a human would have to consume an astronomical amount of wine or supplements to gain similar benefits. What is the truth of these statements, and is it even feasible to hope to gain a significant health advantage from resveratrol?

SARAH, Port Huron, MI

A Let us suggest that the popular press is rarely a good source for reliable scientific information. On that count, a recent article in the FASEB Journal1 criticized the media for its misunderstanding (or ignorance) of what a human equivalent dose would be for the amount of resveratrol used in the mouse study by Baur et al. to which you refer.2

Immediately after the Baur paper was published, the popular press—along with a significant contingent of the scientific community (alas!)—voiced concerns regarding the relevance to humans of the resveratrol dose used by the researchers. Almost without exception, the press scaled the amount of resveratrol given to the mice—22.4 mg per kg of body weight—to humans on a straight weight basis. According to their reports, a person weighing 175 lbs (about 80 kg) would have to ingest 22.4 x 80 = 1792 mg/day. Furthermore, they typically wrote that to get that much resveratrol from red wine (using an estimate of 2 mg of resveratrol per bottle), a person would have to drink 896 bottles per day!

Pharmacology 101 teaches us, however, that ratios involving both body weight and body surface area (BSA) are far more realistic than weight ratios alone in scaling dosages from one species to another. This has been known for over a century, and the relevant scaling factors are familiar to most scientists—but not, apparently, to the media, which concluded that the human equivalent dose of the Baur study was ridiculously large and impractical.

This is a grave injustice to the researchers, not to mention a severe impediment to any notion of possible implementation—it’s all the more frustrating considering that resveratrol has been found to be safe in extremely large doses.

Returning to the article in the FASEB Journal, the authors assert that the mouse dose in the Baur study should be multiplied by the appropriate mouse/human scaling factor of 3/37, which gives a value of 1.82 mg/kg per day. Using the 80-kg person as an example again, the human dosage would therefore be 1.82 x 80 = 146 mg/day, an amount easily achieved with supplements, but not so easily with wine (73 bottles!). But the mice were not fed wine.

We do not know for certain if resveratrol can do for humans what it does for mice and other creatures, but the upside potential is great, and there does not appear to be any downside.

References

  1. Baur JA, Pearson KJ, Price NL, Jamieson HA, Lerin C, Kalra A, Prabhu VV, Allard JS, Lopez-Lluch G, Lewis K, Pistell PJ, Poosala S, Becker KG, Boss O, Gwinn D, Wang M, Ramaswamy S, Fishbein KW, Spencer RG, Lakatta EG, Le Couteur D, Shaw RJ, Navas P, Puigserver P, Ingram DK, de Cabo R, Sinclair DA. Resveratrol improves health and survival of mice on a high-calorie diet. Nature 2006 Nov 16;444(7117):337-42.
  2. Reagan-Shaw S, Nihal M, Ahmad N. Dose translation from animal to human studies revisited. FASEB J 2007 Oct 17; [Epub ahead of print]

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