Resveratrol supplements cause pancreatic problems in developing fetus

June 2, 2014, Oregon Health & Science University

A widely available dietary supplement that had been considered safe—and that some claim provides anti-aging and other health benefits—caused significant developmental abnormalities in the pancreas of offspring of pregnant monkeys who were given the supplement, according to a study published today in the FASEB Journal, from the Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology.

Because of the results, authors of the study strongly recommend that or women who might get pregnant avoid taking the supplement.

The supplement contains resveratrol, which is a found in the skin of red grapes and in peanuts and berries, among other plants. The supplement form of the compound has been available in pharmacies and health food stores for years, with claims that it has a wide range of health benefits. The compound is thought to be an anti-oxidant and an anti-inflammatory, and some animal studies do confirm some benefits. All previous studies had found it to be safe in humans.

Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University's Oregon National Primate Research Center and the University of Colorado-Denver were focusing on some of those potential benefits when they began studying the compound in monkeys. They were specifically focusing on whether resveratrol might help protect against some of the effects of a Western high-fat, high-calorie diet on pregnant women—effects that include complications during pregnancy and long-term health complications for the baby.

The research indicated that resveratrol did provide some real benefits in the pregnant monkeys, including improved blood flow through the placenta to the fetus. Placental abnormalities contribute to many of the pregnancy complications and issues with babies of obese women who eat an unhealthy Western diet.

But the researchers also found an effect that surprised them—resveratrol had a significantly negative effect on the development of the pancreas in the monkey fetus. The pancreas is critical for the body's regulation of blood glucose.

"In the beginning, the results were promising and we had hoped to find a natural supplement that could improve the pregnancy complications. However, the negative impact on the pancreas is really concerning," said Kevin Grove, Ph.D., head of the Division of Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism at ONPRC and a senior co-author of the study. "It immediately raised an alarm."

Antonio Frias, M.D., is director of the diabetes and pregnancy program at OHSU's Center for Women's Health, a scientist at ONPRC and a senior co-author of the study. He has not recommended that pregnant women take resveratrol in the past. But he thinks it's especially important now for obstetric providers to ask pregnant women or reproductive-age women whether they are taking it.

"I think it's something obstetric providers should now ask and they should advise women to stop taking it," Frias said.

Frias said the study results point to the benefits of research of this type in animals. It could have taken years for human clinical trials to uncover this potential effect—if they had uncovered it at all, he said. "Although we are uncertain of the long-term impact of these changes, problems with pancreatic development might not have been evident for many years after the child was born," he said.

Researchers will continue to study the effects on non-human primates to determine if there might be a way to isolate the positive effects while preventing the negative impact on pancreatic development.

Explore further: 'Healthy' component of red wine, resveratrol, causes pancreatic abnormalities in fetuses

Related Stories

'Healthy' component of red wine, resveratrol, causes pancreatic abnormalities in fetuses

June 2, 2014
Here's more evidence that pregnant women should be careful about what they eat and drink: A new research report appearing in the June 2014 issue of The FASEB Journal shows that when taken during pregnancy, resveratrol supplements ...

Diets rich in antioxidant resveratrol fail to reduce deaths, heart disease or cancer

May 12, 2014
A study of Italians who consume a diet rich in resveratrol—the compound found in red wine, dark chocolate and berries—finds they live no longer than and are just as likely to develop cardiovascular disease or cancer as ...

Half of pregnant women who have hypertension and snore unknowingly have a sleep disorder

June 2, 2014
One in two hypertensive pregnant women who habitually snore may have unrecognized obstructive sleep apnea, a sleeping disorder that can reduce blood oxygen levels during the night and that has been linked to serious health ...

PCOS diagnosis tied to inflammation during pregnancy

May 29, 2014
Women who have polycystic ovary syndrome – the most common hormone disorder in women of reproductive age – are more likely to experience chronic low-grade inflammation during pregnancy than counterparts who do not have ...

UV exposure found to lower folate levels in young women

March 19, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Women who are pregnant or trying to fall pregnant and taking a folic acid supplement may be at risk of reducing their folate benefit through sun exposure, a new QUT study has warned.

'Blooming together' improves mum and baby outcome

May 26, 2014
A new model of maternity care tailored to women with obesity has been developed by WA researchers in partnership with pregnant women dealing with eating disorders.

Recommended for you

Anemia discovery offers new targets to treat fatigue in millions

January 22, 2018
A new discovery from the University of Virginia School of Medicine has revealed an unknown clockwork mechanism within the body that controls the creation of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. The finding sheds light on iron-restricted ...

More surprises about blood development—and a possible lead for making lymphocytes

January 22, 2018
Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) have long been regarded as the granddaddy of all blood cells. After we are born, these multipotent cells give rise to all our cell lineages: lymphoid, myeloid and erythroid cells. Hematologists ...

How metal scaffolds enhance the bone healing process

January 22, 2018
A new study shows how mechanically optimized constructs known as titanium-mesh scaffolds can optimize bone regeneration. The induction of bone regeneration is of importance when treating large bone defects. As demonstrated ...

Bioengineered soft microfibers improve T-cell production

January 18, 2018
T cells play a key role in the body's immune response against pathogens. As a new class of therapeutic approaches, T cells are being harnessed to fight cancer, promising more precise, longer-lasting mitigation than traditional, ...

Weight flux alters molecular profile, study finds

January 17, 2018
The human body undergoes dramatic changes during even short periods of weight gain and loss, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Secrets of longevity protein revealed in new study

January 17, 2018
Named after the Greek goddess who spun the thread of life, Klotho proteins play an important role in the regulation of longevity and metabolism. In a recent Yale-led study, researchers revealed the three-dimensional structure ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.