The Next Big Thing?
Anybody that follows nutrition news and the research into longevity will be more than familiar with supplements claiming to be the latest big thing. Unfortunately, many of these ‘big things’ turn out to be little more than a dud.
The latest big thing according to many researchers and media outlets is pterostilbene. There are plenty of claims that it is a better and much stronger alternative to resveratrol. But given that resveratrol has fallen quite a long way off its pedestal already, should you buy into the news regarding this latest alternative or should you keep your wallet closed for the time being?
What is Pterostilbene?
Pterostilbene is an antioxidant which activates sirtuin in the body. It is found naturally in a variety of plant based foods including blueberries, vines, grapes, peanuts and almonds. It is chemically very similar to resveratrol and so far has demonstrated many similar health benefits. In fact, research to date appears to show that pterostilbene is actually more effective than resveratrol.
As is the case with resveratrol, the food which contain pterostilbene does so in very tiny amounts. Blueberries for example are one of the best sources of pterostilbene but contain only around 100 ng to 500 ng for each gram of the fruit. Just to put those figures into some form of perspective, a blueberry package weighing 340 grams would only give you a pterostilbene dose between 0.03 and 0.18 mg.
The studies that have been done so far have certainly proven positive. They have showed that pterostilbene has a variety of benefits including heart health, cognitive health and diabetes but have used doses of hundreds or thousands of times larger than the amount you could get from a natural source. Because of this, dietary sources of pterostilbene are regarded as inadequate and research has focused on supplementary forms of pterostilbene instead.
Pterostilbene vs Resveratrol
Around a decade ago, resveratrol gained a lot of attention around the world. It was acclaimed for its antioxidant benefits but things have since gone a bit quiet. Pterostilbene is very similar in the way it acts on the body and both compounds share very similar chemical features.
While they are structurally very similar, pterostilbene possesses 2 methoxy groups which increase bioavailability when compared with resveratrol.
Despite the acclaim with which it was initially received, resveratrol is not absorbed well, has a very short half life, is easily destroyed by light and oxidizes very quickly when it is exposed to the air.
- Research has demonstrate that pterostilbene is far more bioavailable than resveratrol. It has 4 times the absorption rate at 80% compared with just 20%. (1)
- Pterostilbene also has a much longer half life of 105 minutes compared to the 14 minutes of resveratrol. (2)
- Pterostilbene is far less sensitive to damage from the light
- Pterostilbene is less prone to oxidation from the air.
Health Benefits of Pterostilbene
Medical research into the benefits of pterostilbene is still fairly new. The vast majority of studies have taken place within the past ten years. Because of this, it is worth noting that the research is still in a preliminary stage but several completed clinical trials have already been published and provided some compelling evidence.
1) Blood pressure
Pterostilbene may have an important role to play when it comes to blood pressure reduction especially for people suffering from hypertension.
A very recent double blind study published in the year 2014 involved 80 patients of both sexes aged between 45 and 54. The patients were divided into groups one of which was treated with a placebo.
The groups given pterostilbene were either given 125 mg twice each day or 50 mg twice each day for an 8 week period. The researchers concluded that pterostilbene reduced blood pressure when it was taken in a dose of 250 milligrams a day. (3)
2) Weigh Loss
Good news for those of you or us that would like to shed a couple of extra pounds, researchers have noted that taking pterostilbene may have that effect. The same study mentioned above also noted that the participants who took the pterostilbene supplements lost a moderate amount of weight during the study.
While the early signs appear to suggest that pterostilbene can affect weight, there is still the need for specific studies into its weight loss effects before it can be recommended for the purpose.
While pterostilbene has received a lot of marketing hype for its ability to treat arthritis, the jury is still out. To date, only a single study published in 2010 offers supporting evidence but the results were definitely promising.
In the study, rats induced with arthritis either received pterostilbene supplements or a placebo. The study found that pterostilbene reduced the amount of neutrophils in the rat’s blood. Neutrophils are esentially an immune response which can cause inflammatory disease like rheumatism when the body overproduces them. By this mechanism, pterostilbene appears to offer a great treatment option for arthritis and rheumatism and possibly other immune system disorders. (4)
Atherosclerosis is a common disease cause as we age characterized by the build up of plaque in the arteries. It tends to worsen as we age and significantly increases the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Studies on mice have found that pterostilbene supplementation may protect the artery walls from this build up of plaque and thus reduce the potential for heart attacks or strokes. (5)
5) Muscle Strength and Fitness
One of the largest manufacturers of synthesized pterostilbene is ChromaDex who have several patents related to the nutrient. One of these patents involves combining pterostilbene with caffeine.
One study published in 2016 set out to analyze the muscular and energy gains that could be made with pterostilbene and caffeine combined. The study recruited 21 trained athletes and gave them pterostilbene supplements combined with caffeine some 45 minutes before they trained.
The researchers concluded that those athletes who would benefit from an increase in muscle mass like bodybuilders or footballers would benefit from the supplement. (6)
6) Antioxidant Properties
The specific ORAC value for pterostilbene powder has not been measured up to this point but there has been a growing body of research into its antioxidant potential. Up to now, animal studies, in vitro studies and human in vivo studies have all taken place.
While pterostilbene demonstrates all the normal, generic antioxidant abilities, it can also boast some more interesting properties as we can see below.
7) Eye Health
A study conducted in 2016 demonstrated that pterostilbene helped protect the corneal cells against oxidative damage and inflammation. There is also some belief that its antioxidant properties could help treat or prevent a number of other eye conditions like macular degeneration. (7)
8) Brain Health
Many antioxidants can not cross over the blood brain barrier meaning it is difficult to protect the brain against oxidative damage. However, pterostilbene does not have this problem meaning it could play an important role in preventing diseases caused by oxidative stress such as Alzheimer’s disease. (8)
9) Liver Health
The antioxidant capacity of pterostilbene may also help protect against damage to organs including the liver.
In one study, rats were induced with hepatoxicity or liver damage. They were then given pterostilbene supplements combined with milk thistle for 15 days. The researchers concluded that pterostilbene had liver protective properties attributed to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions of the nutrients. (9)
Over 100 published studies into the effects of pterostilbene mention the word cancer and early signs are very promising. It offers antioxidant benefits to the body’s healthy cells but there is growing evidence that pterostilbene can also reduce the antioxidant defense of the body’s unhealthy cells or cancerous cells.
Studies done so far have showed that it is effective against breast cancer (10), colon cancer (11), lung cancer (12) and prostate cancer. (13)
- The vast majority of research done into pterostilbene has not revealed any major side effects even at very high doses.
- In human tests so far, side effects were largely comparable to the placebo group.
- In one study, the obese participants who took pterostilbene did experience a slight increase in LDL cholesterol levels.