The Great Grape?
Reader Kim asks, Is resveratrol a gold standard anti-aging ingredient as some skincare lines claim it to be?
Resveratrol is a naturally occurring phenol compound found in a number of plant species. The most well known source is the skin of red grapes and it is consequently found in red wine. Its effect on human health is the subject of intensive scientific research, as it has been thought that it might be one of the underlying reasons why drinking a small amount of red wine on a regular basis appears to be beneficial to health. Despite the lack of evidence showing its benefits, entrepreneurs have rushed to make the claim that it is anti-ageing and as a result, resveratrol has been have put everything from cosmetics to health food supplements.
The claim that resveratrol may actually have a beneficial effect received a major boost this past year when researchers at Harvard Medical School reported earlier this year that synthetic compounds that are structurally related to resveratrol, are capable of binding to and activating the human SIRT1 protein, a protein that is involved in regulation of mitochondrial function (Science, 2013). Mitochondria are the ‘powerhouses’ of the cell, providing the energy that our cells run on. As with all other cellular processes, mitochondrial function declines with age. The basic idea is that increasing mitochondrial function will help stave off many of the ills associated with ageing. The hope is that by artificially activating SIRT1 with resveratrol or a compound with a similar structure, one might be able to increase mitochondrial function. Research is ongoing, as it still has to be established that resveratrol can actually fulfill this promise and cause a measurable improvement in cellular health and longevity.
Whether putting resveratrol on the skin has any effect is up for debate. Ageing is the result of a myriad of complex, interwoven cellular processes, and the activation of a single protein may not have much of an effect. At the moment, there is just not enough evidence that topically applied resveratrol can do anything to improve skin health or provide an anti-ageing benefit, especially at the very low concentrations that are being applied to the skin. To get any real benefit from resveratrol (if there is any to be had), you might be better off consuming it directly – perhaps in your next glass of red wine!
For more ingredients information, read Louise’s article “Skincare’s MVPs”.