Resveratrol Con

You have seen the advertisements for weight loss supplements they are trying to sell you some magic. The latest con involves  using Reservatrol  as a supplement to aid in weight loss.  There is no clinical evidence, resveratrol helps people lose weight.

Yet resveratrol is the “proprietary” ingredient you may have heard advertised in “RM3” from Red Mountain Weight Loss. Red Mountain Weight Loss obtained for a patent for their combination of resveratrol and human chorionic gonadotropin. A patent does not mean the government approves or regulates the supplement.  Red Mountain Weight Loss has not submitted their formulation to the FDA or done FDA monitored tests. Red Mountain Weight Loss’s other ingredient is human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) – an ingredient that the FDA clearly states is not approved for weight loss.

HCG … is not approved for weight loss. In fact, the prescription drug label notes there “is no substantial evidence that it increases weight loss beyond that resulting from caloric restriction, that it causes a more attractive or ‘normal’ distribution of fat, or that it decreases the hunger and discomfort associated with calorie-restricted diets.” – from the FDA website

HCG in its only double blind test was shown to be no more effective than salt water for weight loss. We wrote about HCG in our blog Pseudoscience and HCG.

A “prescription” does not mean there FDA regulation to protect consumers. That is because this is not a drug, it is something compounded by a pharmacy, and it is considered  a “supplement. ” Supplements are not regulated by the FDA.

The hype and mini science

Resveratrol is the ingredient thought to provide the health benefits in red wine (it is one of them, not the only one). Resveratrol is found in the skins of the grapes, in berries, and some weeds. When tested in the laboratory it showed promise in cell cultures and there were some mice studies that showed some mice didn’t get fat when taking this. But what happens to mice does not translate to humans (well most humans – are you a man or a mouse)?

In human studies resveratrol has not shown promise. Even Glaxo-Smith Kline stopped their resveratrol project because of a lack of effect and some of the risks associated with taking this.

Every drug, every supplement has either no effect or a toxic effect. Some have an effective and therapeutic dose. For weight loss, there is no established therapeutic dose for resveratrol (meaning, no dose that shows it will cause weight loss or aid you when on a low calorie diet), but there are toxic doses.

Risks of Resveratrol

There are, however, some risks with resveratrol. Patients who have blood disorders, which can cause bleeding, should be monitored by a physician while taking this product. People who are taking drugs to thin their blood, like anti-coagulants of warfarin, or others should not take this drug.  Since I do weight loss surgery I instruct patients who are undergoing surgery to stop taking resveratrol two weeks before the surgery and not take it for two weeks after the surgery to reduce the risk of bleeding. In fact, I tell them to stop it completely since it does not have any effect on weight.

People who have had blood clots (deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism) or who have had heart attacks or strokes should not use this drug. Nor should people who take drugs that can effect the blood such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or other drugs.

Women who are pregnant or who are breast-feeding should not take  resveratrol supplements or excessive amounts of natural foods containing resveratrol.  There have been no FDA studies to show or prove safety of resveratrol.

Childhood obesity continues to be a problem but and sometimes people are tempted to try different supplements with their children. Resveratrol should be avoided in children. Another reason women who are pregnant should not use this supplement.

Resveratrol has mild estrogenic activity and until more is known, women with cancers and other conditions that are estrogen sensitive should seek medical advice before taking resveratrol. Men might think if they want to grow breasts and have their penis get smaller then estrogenic activity would be a plus (guys, don’t take this). Women who have had breast cancer should not use this drug.

Resveratrol reduces the activity of enzymes involved with drug metabolism, meaning a drug you are prescribed, that actually has had FDA testing, may not have the same effect because resveratrol can change the way the drug is metabolized, which can make your prescribed drug less effective or toxic.  Drugs that it may interfere with include drugs used to treat heart arrythmias, blood pressure, as well as drugs to treat HIV, drugs used to prevent rejection of transplanted organs (kidneys, livers, hearts), drugs used to treat allergies, drugs used for erectile dysfunction, and others. The science is that resveratrol may inhibit cytochrome 3A4, which may cause interactions with HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors – and that is the metabolic pathway of many drugs.

Some people have reported joint pain and tendinitis with resveratrol use. The most common reported were  affecting the Achilles tendon, resveratrol has also caused joint pain in other areas, sometimes accompanied by tingling and/or numbness in arms, legs, hands and feet.

Better to Eat Well

If you think you want resveratrol in your diet, it is far better to eat a diet that is rich in berries, and have a glass of red wine. It is much less expensive, and there is far less risk.  The benefits associated with a healthy diet that involves lots of fruits and vegetables is well studied and accepted by science. So here are your choices: take a supplement with known risks, or improve what you eat and have long term success with a healthy diet.

Still, with the new year coming people will want to find the magic solution and even though resveratrol is not effective it will be sold in various nutrition shops, supplement shops, and weight loss clinics. Instead of paying for it, fix your chow.

The answer for weight loss is not a quick diet. The answer is a fundamental change in the way people eat, and for those who have developed morbid obesity, it will probably mean weight loss surgery.

Shortly we will begin an on-line course to help people change their diet and begin eating behaviors that are backed by science.  You won’t be sold shots, or put on a diet of chicken or turkey breasts with just asparagus – but flavor and ideas. We will be offering the mini-course of this free.



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FDA website:

Dr. Terry Simpson About Dr. Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. He found he liked people more than petri dishes, and went to medical school. Dr. Simpson, a weight loss surgeon is an advocate of culinary medicine. The first surgeon to become certified in Culinary Medicine, he believes teaching people to improve their health through their food and in their kitchen. On the other side of the world, he has been a leading advocate of changing health care to make it more "relationship based," and his efforts awarded his team the Malcolm Baldrige award for healthcare in 2011 for the NUKA system of care in Alaska and in 2013 Dr Simpson won the National Indian Health Board Area Impact Award. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.” For media inquiries, please visit

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