Pterostilbene versus resveratrol

Pterostilbene is a natural molecule found in fruits, vegetables and nuts. Blueberries are often quoted as one of the richest sources of pterostilbene. However, the amount of pterostilbene in blueberries is much lower than you can find in food supplements or lower than the amounts used in scientific studies (at most a few hundred nanograms per gram of dry-weight blueberries compared to around 50 mg in a well-dosed pterostilbene supplement).

Pterostilbene is part of a class of polyphenolic substances called stilbenes, which also includes resveratrol and piceatannol.

Pterostilbene versus resveratrol

Pterostilbene and its more famous cousin resveratrol are very similar molecules.

Not so long ago, resveratrol came into the scientific and public spotlight as an anti-aging substance, given early studies showed that resveratrol extended lifespan in various animals (R,R,R,R). You may have seen the press enthusiastically — though erroneously — claim that red wine could extend lifespan because it contains (very small amounts of) resveratrol. The claim was based on resveratrol. However, recent studies have shown that resveratrol doesn’t extend lifespan (R).

One of the potential explanations for this is that resveratrol is broken down very quickly. Resveratrol circulates for only a very short period of time in the body: its half-life is only 14 minutes, meaning that after only 14 minutes, half of the resveratrol is eliminated by the body.

Pterostilbene, on the other hand, stays in the body far longer. This is because pterostilbene contains only one hydroxyl group, compared to the three hydroxyl groups of resveratrol. Hydroxyl groups make it much easier for the body to get rid of a molecule.

Also, pterostilbene is considerably better absorbed by the gut compared to resveratrol. Pterostilbene has a bioavailability of about 80 percent, compared to 20 percent for resveratrol.

Given the various shortcomings of resveratrol, scientists are looking at better alternatives, like pterostilbene, or artificial lab-made resveratrol-based analogues, such as SIRT2104 (R).

Pterostilbene and aging

Many studies demonstrate beneficial effects of pterostilbene on health and the aging process.

To start, pterostilbene reduces oxidative stress. In animals, pterostilbene upregulates powerful antioxidant enzymes in cells, like superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione peroxidase and glutathione reductase (R). Upregulating the body’s own internal antioxidant defense mechanisms is much better than taking extraneous antioxidant supplements orally, as we explained in our blog post about antioxidants and longevity.

Pterostilbene can also reduce inflammaging (low-grade, aging-related inflammation) by various mechanisms, like by inhibiting COX (cyclooxygenase) enzymes which produce inflammatory compounds (R).

Pterostilbene can also improve DNA repair (R).

Pterostilbene is an autophagy inducer (R). Autophagy is the process that clears up cellular waste that accumulates in the cells. During aging, autophagy is reduced. Pterostilbene can also activate AMPK, an important energy sensor in the cells, which in turn inhibits mTOR, a strong inhibitor of autophagy (R).

Pterostilbene induces epigenetic changes. Pterostilbene can activate sirtuins, such as SIRT1. Sirtuins are proteins that repair DNA damage and improve metabolic functioning, leading to increased mitochondrial biogenesis (more production of mitochondria) and extended lifespan (R,R).

Pterostilbene can also improve brain functioning and protect the brain. This can be achieved, for example, by increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and CREB. Various animal studies demonstrated that pterostilbene improves cognitive function, especially working memory (R), and can reduce the effects of aging on the brain (R).

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