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Resveratrol Improves Blood Sugar

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

resveratrol improves blood sugar

Story at-a-glance -

  • Resveratrol is antiantioxidant that provides neuroprotection against many neurodegenerative illnesses like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease and stroke
  • Resveratrol can increase cerebral blood flow, protecting against depression and brain inflammation, and may even improve learning, mood and memory
  • A recent study indicates resveratrol's ability to improve blood sugar in Type 2 diabetes mellitus
  • Resveratrol decreased fasting blood sugar, increased high density lipoprotein and increased and improved insulin levels in Type 2 diabetes mellitus
  • Resveratrol also treats diabetic side effects without dangerous prescription drugs
  • Resveratrol has an important role in both preventing cancer and enhancing the effect of cancer drugs

I have often written about the many benefits of resveratrol, which is a phytonutrient belonging to a class of polyphenolic stilbene compounds found in some plants. This naturally occurring substance, also known as 3,4',5-trihydroxystilbene, functions an as antiantioxidant, providing neuroprotection against many neurodegenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease and stroke.

Yet that is hardly the limit of resveratrol's other valuable actions. Unlike many other antiantioxidants, resveratrol crosses the blood-brain barrier which separates the brain's blood from the extracellular fluid in the central nervous system.

This ability means resveratrol can increase cerebral blood flow and thus likely protect against stroke and vascular dementia,1 depression,2 brain inflammation,3 plaque buildup associated with Alzheimer's disease4 bacteria and fungi,5 and may even improve learning, mood and memory.6

Recently, another apparent resveratrol benefit was confirmed by researchers –– resveratrol's ability to improves blood sugar in those with Type 2 diabetes mellitus.7 After just eight weeks of resveratrol supplementation, subjects' fasting blood sugar decreased, their high density lipoprotein increased and their insulin levels improved.8 Clearly this is a valuable nutrient with many benefits. I take it myself.

Important Implications for Those With Type 2 Diabetes

In a recent study in the journal Phytotherapy Research, 71 overweight patients with Type 2 diabetes (T2DM) and a body mass index between 25 and 30 either received 1,000 mg/day trans-resveratrol or methyl cellulose, used as a placebo, for eight weeks. Their lipid and glycemic profiles were measured before and after the study.

Even though subjects did not change in the size, shape or composition of their bodies during the study –– called anthropometric measurements –– here is what the researchers found:9

"In adjusted model (age, sex, and baseline body mass index), resveratrol decreased fasting blood sugar (-7.97±13.6 mg/dL, p=0.05) and increased high density lipoprotein (3.62±8.75 mg/dL, p=0.01) levels compared with placebo.

Moreover, the mean difference in insulin levels reached significance (-0.97±1.91, μIU/mL, p= 0.02) ... It was found that 8-week resveratrol supplementation produced useful effects on some cardio-metabolic parameters in patients with T2DM."

Another study with similar, encouraging results put 56 subjects who had both T2DM and coronary heart disease (CHD) on either resveratrol or placebo for only four weeks. The researchers said:10

"Resveratrol reduced fasting glucose, insulin and insulin resistance and significantly increased insulin sensitivity when compared with the placebo. Resveratrol also significantly increased HDL-cholesterol levels and significantly decreased the total-/HDL-cholesterol ratio when compared with the placebo.

Additionally, resveratrol caused a significant increase in total antioxidant capacity (TAC) and a significant reduction in malondialdehyde (MDA) levels when compared with the placebo.

Four-week supplementation of resveratrol in patients with T2DM and CHD had beneficial effects on glycemic control, HDL-cholesterol levels, the total-/HDL-cholesterol ratio, TAC and MDA levels. Resveratrol also upregulated PPAR-γ and SIRT1 in the PBMCs of T2DM patients with CHD."

Resveratrol May Prevent Type 2 Diabetes Complications

Certainly, selling synthetic antidiabetic agents is a lucrative enterprise for the drug industry. But phytonutrients such as resveratrol and other natural treatments are clearly preferable for those with diabetes because they lack the many side effects of these prescription drugs and are also often more affordable. So when a natural substance like resveratrol can help prevent diabetic side effects, as a recent issue of the journal Current Diabetes Reviews suggests, it is good news.

The journal researchers report that resveratrol and several other phytonutrients may hold great promise in addressing diabetic side effects and that more research is should be conducted:11

"Most of the reported findings focus on one aspect of several biochemical processes e.g. enhancement of glucose utilization, anti-oxidation, induction of insulin production, antiglycation etc. An in-depth study of phytonutrients with respect to functional, immunological as well as biochemical factors suggesting their efficacy, as well as safety in the management of diabetes, is rarely reported …

Our study thus highlights the abundance of clinical evidence of the efficiency of phytonutrients, and at the same time, the scarcity of clinically approved and marketed phytonutrients, as drugs, for the management of diabetes and related complications."

The researchers are right. Natural treatments for diabetes complications are urgently needed. Deaths from diabetes complications and chronic respiratory diseases are only preceded by deaths from cardiovascular diseases and cancer in the developed world.12 Resveratrol's antidiabetic properties as well as its potential antiaging effects, which I have written about before, were noted in the journal Cell.13

Resveratrol Noted for Chemoprevention of Many Cancers

Many natural substances have strong scientific indications of their ability to reduce the risk of cancer, but resveratrol may be one of the most impressive. In the United States National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, which maintains what is known as the "Pubmed" database, in 2019 there were 3,362 references for resveratrol as it relates to general cancer,14 546 to breast cancer,15 263 to colon cancer,16 249 to prostate cancer,17 230 to lung cancer18 and 106 to ovarian cancer.19

In 2018, researchers at the University of Geneva in Switzerland discovered that resveratrol could actually prevent lung cancer in some mice given lung cancer producing carcinogens.20

"We tried to prevent lung cancer induced by a carcinogen found in cigarette smoke by using resveratrol ... in a mouse model," said Muriel Cuendet, associate professor in the University of Geneva's School of Pharmaceutical Sciences. A 45 percent decrease in tumor formation per mouse in the treated mice was seen, suggesting that, "resveratrol could therefore play a preventive role against lung cancer."

The University of Geneva researchers surmised that the chemoprevention mechanism seen with resveratrol was likely related to the process by which cells program their own death and from which cancer cells escape, a mechanism called apoptosis.

Resveratrol May Protect Patients During Cancer Treatment

Imagine a natural substance that not only can prevent the risk of cancer, but minimize some of the notorious side effects of cancer treatments. Again, there is evidence favoring the benefits of resveratrol. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy, two common treatments for cancer, are often associated with depression, fatigue, anorexia, neuropathic pain and sleep disorders — and resveratrol may help. Researchers in a 2011 study in the journal Experimental Biology and Medicine wrote:21

"During the past decade, increasing evidence has shown that the dysregulation of inflammatory pathways contributes to the expression of these symptoms. Cancer patients have been found to have higher levels of proinflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-6. The nuclear factor (NF)-κB is a major mediator of inflammatory pathways.

Therefore, anti-inflammatory agents that can modulate the NF-κB activation and inflammatory pathways may have potential in improving cancer-related symptoms in patients.

Because of their multitargeting properties, low cost, low toxicity and immediate availability, natural agents have gained considerable attention for prevention and treatment of cancer-related symptoms. How NF-κB and inflammatory pathways contribute to cancer-related symptoms is the focus of this review.

We will also discuss how nutritional agents such as curcumin, genistein, resveratrol, epigallocatechin gallate and lycopene can modulate inflammatory pathways and thereby reduce cancer-related symptoms in patients."

Resveratrol May Reverse Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy can cause ovarian aging, early menopause and, in young women, infertility –– terrible side effects on top of the cancer itself. Yet, some research shows that resveratrol can reverse some of these deleterious effects.22 This is what researchers wrote in the journal Aging:

"We demonstrated that resveratrol (30 mg/kg/d) relieved oogonial stem cells loss and showed an attenuating effect on Bu/Cy-induced oxidative apoptosis in mouse ovaries, which may be attributed to the attenuation of oxidative levels in ovaries.

Additionally, we also showed that Res exerted a dose-dependent effect on oogonial stem cells and attenuated H2O2-induced cytotoxicity and oxidative stress injury by activating Nrf2 in vitro. Therefore, resveratrol could be of a potential therapeutic drug used to prevent chemotherapy-induced ovarian aging."

Resveratrol Boosts a Chemotherapy Drug

In 2018, researchers found other cancer-related resveratrol benefits. "Pancreatic cancer (PC) is one of the top five leading causes of cancer-related deaths," wrote researchers in the journal Cell Proliferation, yet "chemotherapeutic drugs can barely reach the tumour due to lack of blood supply."

While the preferred chemotherapy drug is gemcitabine, resistance, both intrinsic and acquired, often occurs, even when little of the drug reaches the pancreatic tumor write the researchers. Resveratrol proves useful here too.23

Resveratrol enhances chemotherapy by suppressing the gemcitabine-induced "stemness" –– cancer cells that proliferate, differentiate, self-renew and resist anticancer therapies24 –– write the Cell Proliferation researchers:25

"A previous study reported that resveratrol enhanced the sensitivity of PC cells to gemcitabine via activating the AMPK signalling pathway. Moreover, a study performed in nude mice determined the effect of resveratrol plus gemcitabine in vivo.

According to that study, resveratrol potentiated the effect of gemcitabine on tumour growth. In our present study, we found that resveratrol enhanced the sensitivity of PC cells to gemcitabine via down‐regulating SREBP1 expression.

Meanwhile, down-regulation of SREBP1 by resveratrol overcame the stemness induced by gemcitabine in both PC cell lines and the KPC mouse model.

Overall, our data provide evidence that resveratrol enhances sensitivity to gemcitabine and reverses the stemness induced by gemcitabine via down‐regulating SREBP1 expression. These findings suggest that resveratrol is a potent chemotherapy sensitizer and that SREBP1 is a notable target for cancer treatment."

Cleary, with its cancer-related properties and its recently confirmed ability to improve blood sugar, resveratrol is a valuable, natural substance with myriad wonderful uses.