Resveratrol: The key to reducing elderly frailty?

By Annie Harrison-Dunn

- Last updated on GMT

'Rresveratrol can be a promising dietary supplement, which can enhance the physical capacity of elderly people and avoid to some degree age-dependent sarcopenia.' ©iStock/sanjagrujic
'Rresveratrol can be a promising dietary supplement, which can enhance the physical capacity of elderly people and avoid to some degree age-dependent sarcopenia.' ©iStock/sanjagrujic

Related tags Old age

The so-called red wine nutrient resveratrol may help maintain muscle performance and reduce frailty in the elderly, research in mice has suggested. 

Using 48 young, mature and old mice models, the study found resveratrol improved muscle performance in the mature and old animals but not in the young. 

They found resveratrol – found in grapes, red wine, walnuts, peanuts and berries – “primed”​ the effect of exercise by increasing endurance, coordination and strength in the old animals as well as providing higher protection against oxidative damage and an increase in the mitochondrial mass responsible for the energy-generating process essential for cell metabolism. 

“Our results indicate that resveratrol can be considered an ergogenic compound that helps maintain muscle performance during ageing and subsequently reduces frailty and increases muscle performance in old individuals practising moderate exercise,”​ wrote the researchers from
Universidad Pablo de Olavide in Seville, Spain and the Vietnam National University in Hanoi, Vietnam. 

Study details

Each experiment group animal was given a daily dose of about 500 μg of resveratrol for 4.5 months. After this period the mice were randomly divided again into sedentary and trained groups.

The trained mice were adapted to exercise then put on a rodent treadmill for 20 minutes per day, five days a week for six weeks.

The animals were then killed by cervical dislocation and the gastrocnemius muscle was quickly removed.

Old polyphenol, young results​ 

Discussing the results, lead author and professor at the Universidad Pablo de Olavide Dr Guillermo Lopez-Lluch told us while this was not the first time the polyphenol had been looked at within health ageing, this was the first time it had been associated with the improvement of muscle capacity in ageing.

Asked if the results meant older people should be recommended or even prescribed resveratrol, Professor Lopez-Lluch said: “The use of nutraceuticals such as resveratrol can be recommended in the case of poor diets lacking fresh vegetables rich in polyphenols.

“In aged people an unbalanced diet must be supplemented with extracts rich in these compounds accompanied by a more active life.”

grapes pisagor

Supplementing sarcopenia​ 

In 2011 research in Italy estimated between 11–50% of over 80s suffer from age-related muscle loss sarcopenia, with the problem particularly prevalent in care homes. 

“Maintenance of muscle functionality is important to avoid frailty and to increase the independence and quality of life during ageing. It seems clear that for daily life activity, and hence a good quality of life, not only strength but also endurance is needed,”​ the researchers wrote in the British Journal of Nutrition​. 

“Apart from the maintenance of a series of basic exercises, several nutritional bioactive compounds have been proposed to increase muscle function during ageing and to avoid sarcopenia.” 

The researchers said the "most controversial problem" ​with identifying effects of bioactive compounds was to find if the positive effects found in preclinical studies in animals produced the same response in humans.

"Regarding the effect of different polyphenols on physical capacity in humans, different clinical trials carried out to date have been unsuccessful or show controversial results and further studies are needed."

Yet Professor Lopez-Lluch said his research team did not have plans to study this effect of resveratrol in humans.

Instead they were currently awaiting funds to carry out a study about exercise, quality of nutrition and quality of life in elderly people.

“We hope this study will get a grant in the next months.”

Source: British Journal of Nutrition

Published online ahead of print,doi:10.1017/S0007114516002920

“Resveratrol primes the effects of physical activity in old mice”

Authors: E. Rodríguez-Bies, B. Thanh Tung, P. Navas and G. López-Lluch

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