Resveratrol, a compound found in nuts, grapes, and wine, may protect against certain cardiovascular problems, according to an NIA study in nonhuman primates. Specifically, researchers found resveratrol prevented arterial stiffening and inflammation in monkeys on a high fat, high sugar diet. It also reduced fatty build up and calcification of the arteries, a condition known as atherosclerosis. These issues are common among older adults.
Positive effects of resveratrol were most profound after a year of supplementation. The compound did not, however, prevent all negative effects associated with a high fat, high sugar diet. For instance, it did not affect blood pressure or “bad” cholesterol (low density lipoprotein, LDL) nor did it prevent increase in body weight.
Researchers evaluated resveratrol’s effects on arterial stiffness using a standard clinical test called pulse wave velocity (PWV). It measures how quickly blood can flow through the arteries from the heart to the rest of the body. Stiffer arteries create quicker waves of motion. Increased PWV commonly leads to high blood pressure, and, in humans, predicts an increased risk of developing (and death from) heart disease.
Researchers emphasize that their results are not immediately translatable to humans. Multiple studies on resveratrol in animal models, however, have presented ample evidence to support the next phase of investigation, a human study. NIA will be recruiting for a clinical trial (NCT01842399 ), starting in fall 2014, to test whether resveratrol may support heart health in older people. To learn more about the study and how to participate, visit clinicaltrials.gov .
Reference: Mattison et al., Resveratrol Prevents High Fat/Sucrose Diet-Induced Central Arterial Wall Inflammation and Stiffening in Nonhuman Primates, Cell Metabolism  (2014), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2014.04.018