On this episode of Lifespan News, Ryan O’Shea revisits the ongoing controversy involving resveratrol and the widely known longevity enthusiast David Sinclair.
In a recent episode of Lifespan News, we discussed a controversy surrounding resveratrol, and today, we’ll update you on the reaction to that video and how we’ll approach this going forward.
Resveratrol is used by many people for what they believe are its health and longevity benefits, and much of this belief stems from studies that were conducted by Dr. David Sinclair and his team at Harvard University in the mid-2000s. Since then the results of these studies have been called into question – with the argument being that resveratrol is incapable of activating sirtuin-1 in humans, that there’s no reliable data for it’s benefits, and that it might not only be ineffective, but could actually be harmful to humans. Dr. Sinclair seems to disagree, and stands by his research. That’s a quick summary of the situation. For more on the background, please watch our previous video on this topic, and check out the source material linked in that video description.
Now the purpose of our previous video, and the reason we addressed this topic at all, was to find alignment on what should be the mutual goals of everyone involved – to attain and share knowledge about how to extend healthy human lifespan, and to work to make sure that those methods are made available so that they can help people.
And once we all agree on that mission, which should not be difficult, what to do about resveratrol becomes clear – let’s have the leading scientists and experts on both sides of this issue discuss their areas of disagreement directly, come to a consensus on what evidence or data would settle their disagreements, and then gather that data. And Lifespan.io, the non-profit organization behind Lifespan News, offered to facilitate this discussion, and to work to help fund the study that could provide resolution to this. But it doesn’t need to be us – We’d support the efforts of others to do this, as well.
And just a quick aside to everyone who says that the science has long been settled on this issue – apparently it’s not. The fact that people – even those who are relatively knowledgeable about health and biology – are pulled in different directions, and are hearing contradictory things from people they respect, shows the level of confusion that exists for many.
So, that’s the appeal that we made in the last video, and the response was quite positive.
Dr. Brad Stanfield and Dr. Charles Brenner, who were both featured in our original video, quickly expressed a willingness to participate in an open and public discussion on this topic, with Dr. Stanfield Tweeting “Good video summary about the resveratrol research. Totally agree that an open discussion about the research should happen, particularly with researchers such as David Sinclair, Matt Kaeberlein, Brian Kennedy, Charles Brenner, & I’m more than happy to join.” and Dr. Brenner Tweeting “yes I’d be happy to be interviewed by Lifespan.IO about SIRTs & resveratrol”. Jeffrey Flier, the former dean of Harvard Medical School, where Dr. Sinclair works, quote Tweeted Dr. Brenner and said “If aging science was conducted properly, a scientific society or institute would do a symposium where key scientists discussed views on this contested issue together, had comments from indep scientists, responded to questions, recorded sessions and then published proceedings.”
Personally, I agree with this. And the conversation on this topic continued in the YouTube comments under our recent video. When Dr. Stanfield was asked if he would be happy for LEAF to facilitate a debate between him and Dr. Sinclair, he replied “Absolutely”.
I have not seen any public response to this from Dr. Sinclair. A Twitter user did reply to an unrelated Tweet of his and directly asked if he thought that a public debate on this topic would be helpful, and if not, what his suggestions for clarifying science communication & addressing confusion are. That also did not receive a response.
Shortly after our previous video was released, and these tweets were sent, Dr. Sinclair blocked both Flier and Brenner on Twitter. For many observers, this didn’t necessarily come as a surprise. There has been obvious animosity, and what some have called “trolling”, going on for awhile. And as Brenner said, Sinclair is “certainly within his rights to control his feed”. Regardless, this whole situation is certainly not ideal.
And I want to be clear here – Dr. Sinclair could have any number of reasons for not wanting to engage here. A lot of people may jump to the assumption that demonstrated unwillingness to engage on these topics is proof that his position is indefensible. I’m not willing to assume that, though I understand why many do. There could be any number of explanations, including business interests, legal advice, confidentiality, or even just because he doesn’t take these claims – or perhaps those that are most vocal in making them – seriously, and perhaps thinks there could be other motives at play.
That’s why I was hoping that, at a minimum, someone else might be willing to argue his position in his place. Unfortunately, without a recognized expert who is able and willing to publicly defend the position that resveratrol does activate SIRT-1 in humans, or at a minimum does provide health and/or longevity benefits in humans, I don’t see how this debate or discussion that we’ve been advocating for can take place.
And there is still new science on resveratrol coming out all the time. Just recently a team of researchers in China shared results in a paper titled “Modulation of SIRT1 expression improves erectile function in aged rats” that indicates that, quote, “the protein expression of SIRT1 was increased in the [resveratrol] group”, and that “[resveratrol] treatment significantly elevated erectile function in aged rats”. What does this mean in the context of the broader resveratrol controversy? I have no idea, but we need to figure it out.
Without any noteworthy developments, this may be as far as we at Lifespan News can go towards addressing the disagreements surrounding resveratrol. In any case, we’ll certainly continue to bring you the latest science. So, for more of that, please subscribe. I’m Ryan O’Shea, and we’ll see you next time on Lifespan News!