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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Cardiovascular Disease, Polyphenolics, and Magic Bullets

By Michael McBurney

Obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease are associated with disturbed lipid metabolism.  Weight loss, increasing physical activity, and reducing saturated fat and cholesterol intake can successfully modify lipid risk profiles and cardiovascular disease risk. Nevertheless, people are always looking for magic bullets. The medical profession has found their antidote to prevent cardiovascular disease: prescription drugs, primarily statins.

Most and colleagues investigated the effects of short-term supplementation of two combinations of polyphenols on energy expenditure and lipid metabolism in 18 healthy, overweight volunteers (average age of 35y and body mass index (BMI) of 28.9). It was a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled cross-over design. For 2 days, volunteers consumed twice daily: 1) 282 mg epigallocatechin-gallate and 200 mg resveratrol (E+R); 2) E+R and 80 mg soy isoflavone; or 3) placebo. On day 3 after a 12h overnight fast, they ingested the same supplements with a high-fat mixed meal and blood was sampled. Fasting and post-prandial energy expenditure (EE) were measured by indirect calorimetry. The E+R treatment increased resting EE. Both treatments increased postprandial EE and improved metabolic flexibility vs placebo. Addition of soy isoflavones partially reversed these effects. Nevertheless, polyphenols look like a promising means to maintain a healthy weight and cardiovascular system.

This is not the first study to show a metabolic benefit of resveratrol in overweight subjects. Timmers et al reported that 150 mg resveratrol daily for 30 days decreased blood glucose and insulin concentrations and reduced levels of inflammatory markers in blood of 11 obese health males (vs placebo). Bhatt and colleagues reported that 250 mg resveratrol daily for 3 months significantly improved hemoglobin A1c concentrations and reduced systolic blood pressure and total cholesterol concentrations in individuals with type 2 diabetes.  Ghanim and associates reported that supplementation with 40 mg resveratrol daily for 6 weeks reduced biomarkers of oxidative and inflammatory stress (normal-weight individuals). Although the doses of resveratrol used are not typical for wine, 250 mL red wine (2.9 g total polyphenolics per liter) per day for 21 days had measurable effects on isolated endothelial cells, i.e. those responsible for mediate vascular dilation.

So, there is hope that polyphenolics, like resveratrol, found in foods and supplements can affect the structure and function of our bodies. There is evidence that resveratrol affects metabolism. However, polyphenolics are not drugs. They are not magic bullets. More of anything, even water, is not always better.

There are no shortcuts to a healthy weight or healthy cardiovascular system. The best advice is to eat properly, exercise regularly, consume alcohol with moderation, and get enough sleep.

Major citation

Moss J, Goossens GH, Jocken JWE, Blaak EE. Short-term supplementation with a specific combination of dietary polyphenols increases energy expenditure and alters substrate metabolism in overweight subjects. 2014 Int J Obesity doi: 10.1038/ijo.2013.231

Other Citations

Bhatt JK, Thomas S, Nanjan MJ. Resveratrol supplementation improves glycemic control in type 2 diabetes mellitus. 2012 Nutr Res doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2012.06.003.

Ghanim H, Sia CL, Abuaysheh S, Korzeniewski K, Patnaik P, Marumganti A, Chaudhuri A, Dandona P. An anti-inflammatory and reactive oxygen species suppressive effects of an extract of Polygonum cuspidatum containing resveratrol. 2010 J Clin Endocrinol Metab doi: 10.1110/jc.2010-0482

Timmers S, Konings E, Bilet L, Houtkooper RH, van de Weijer T, Goosssens GH, Hoeks J, van der Krieken S, Ruy D, Kersten S, Moonen-Hornips E, Hesselink MKC, Kunz I, Schrauwen-Hinderling VB, Blaak EE, Auwerx J, Schrauwen P. Calorie restriction-like effects of 30 day supplementation on energy metabolism and metabolic profile in obese humans.  2011 Cell Metabolism doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2011.10.002