The study – published in the Journal of Physiology – investigated the effects of high dose resveratrol supplementation on exercise training in a laboratory based rat model. The team found that the compound improves their exercise performance by physical performance, heart function and muscle strength – in addition to promoting changes in energy metabolism.
The natural compound found in fruits, nuts and red wine was shown to increase the force response of isolated muscles during isometric contraction and increase whole body oxidative metabolism in the study, reveal the researchers.
“Based on these findings, we conclude that resveratrol is an ergogenic aid that improves exercise training via changes in skeletal muscle function and cardiac performance, but also improves energy metabolism,” they explained.
The team said supplementation improved several parameters of heart functioning, including left ventricular (LV) function and energy homeostasis by altering signalling pathways and gene expressions.
"We were excited when we saw that resveratrol showed results similar to what you would see from extensive endurance exercise training," explained Jason Dyck from the University of Alberta, Canada – who led the research.
"We immediately saw the potential for this and thought that we identified 'improved exercise performance in a pill.' "
Resveratrol is often touted as the bioactive compound in grapes and red wine, and has been associated with the so-called 'French Paradox'. The phrase, coined in 1992 by Dr Serge Renaud from Bordeaux University, describes the low incidence of heart disease and obesity among the French, despite their relatively high-fat diet and levels of wine consumption.
Interest in the compound exploded in 2003 when research from David Sinclair and his team from Harvard reported that resveratrol was able to increase the lifespan of yeast cells. The research, published in Nature, was greeted with international media fanfare and ignited flames of hope for an anti-ageing pill.
According to Sinclair’s findings, resveratrol could activate a gene called sirtuin1 (Sirt1 – the yeast equivalent was Sir2), which is also activated during calorie restriction in various species, including monkeys.
Since then studies in nematode worms, fruit flies, fish, and mice have linked resveratrol to longer lives. Other studies on resveratrol have suggested the compound to have anti-cancer effects, anti-inflammatory effects, cardiovascular benefits, anti-diabetes potential, energy endurance enhancement, in addition to offering protection against Alzheimer’s.
Dyck and his team will soon start starting testing resveratrol on diabetics with heart failure to see if the natural compound can improve heart function for this patient group. The 10-week study is expected to start within the next few months.
"I think resveratrol could help patient populations who want to exercise but are physically incapable. Resveratrol could mimic exercise for them or improve the benefits of the modest amount of exercise that they can do," said Dyck. "It is very satisfying to progress from basic research in a lab to testing in people, in a short period of time."
Source: Journal of Physiology
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2012.230490
“Improvements in skeletal muscle strength and cardiac function induced by resveratrol during exercise training contribute to enhanced exercise performance in rats”
Authors: V.W. Dolinsky, K.E. Jones, R.S. Sidhu, M. Haykowsky, M.P. Czubryt, T. Gordon, J.R.B. Dyck