What is Pterostilbene? Benefits, Dosage, and Risks
What is Pterostilbene? | Overview: Potential Benefits and Risks | How Does it Work? | Foods Rich in Pterostilbene | Supplementing with Pterostilbene | Dosage | Health Benefits Observed in Human Studies | Health Benefits Observed in Animal Studies and Cell-based Research | Potential Risks of Pterostilbene | Potential Drug Interactions | Conclusion: Looking Toward the Future with Pterostilbene
In 2003, much of the world raised a glass to celebrate the groundbreaking news: Red wine contains resveratrol, a potent antioxidant with great potential for health and longevity!
Now, the world’s foremost scientists and research institutions are eagerly studying her cousin: Pterostilbene. More potent and bioavailable, this new polyphenol is poised to deliver where resveratrol fell short.
What is Pterostilbene?
Pterostilbene is a powerful antioxidant that many researchers believe to be a significant tool in the fight against aging and age-related illness. Notably, pterostilbene is a polyphenol.
This unique class of plant-based compounds is widely researched for its potential to promote healthy aging by preventing cellular damage and disease. Other well-known foods rich in Pterostilbene include blueberries, cranberries, and dragon fruit.
Pterostilbene is perhaps most similar to resveratrol, the plant-based antioxidant from grapes that gives red wine its purported health benefits. However, there are significant differences when comparing pterostilbene to resveratrol and other polyphenols, including:
- Evidence suggests pterostilbene is up to 4x more bioavailable than resveratrol
- So far, research suggests pterostilbene may provide greater health benefits than resveratrol
- Fewer studies have been conducted on pterostilbene, however, and more formal studies are needed
Overview of Potential Benefits and Risks
Pterostilbene is on the leading edge of anti-aging research and supplementation. While this makes the compound exciting, it’s important to weigh the potential benefits and risks before use. As with any supplement or medication, always consult your physician prior to making any changes to your health care regimen.
The following health benefits and outcomes have been observed in human, animal, and cell-based research:
- High bioavailability
- Aids in weight loss
- Guards against free radical damage
- Improves insulin sensitivity
- Promotes healthy gut flora
- Improves mood and memory
- Promotes neuroprotection and neurogenesis
- Reduces of oxidative stress associated with Alzheimer’s disease
- Improves heart and liver function
- Reduces inflammation
Potential risks of Pterostilbene:
- Limited research and few human studies leave many questions still unanswered
- Might increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol—although supplementing with grape extract may counteract this
- Known interactions with SSRIs and certain chemotherapy drugs
- Potential for unknown drug interactions with other supplements and prescription medications
How Does it Work?
Pterostilbene is thought to have at least three primary mechanisms of action. They include acting as a powerful antioxidant, an activator of the body’s sirtuin pathways, and an anti-inflammatory agent.
Without antioxidants, every cell in your body would fall victim to oxidative stress. This stress is simply a byproduct of being alive. Every moment, cellular reactions generate free radical byproducts—atoms that are missing an electron, and thus unstable. Antioxidants possess an extra electron and neutralize free radicals, before they cause irreparable harm.
Pterostilbene is a potent antioxidant. In studies, it has been shown to signal the production of superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) and peroxiredoxin-4 (PRDX4), both of which bind to free radicals to prevent cell damage.
Sirtuins are a family of proteins responsible for regulating metabolism. Recently, scientists and longevity experts have referred to sirtuins as pathways, a useful analogy that illustrates how the proteins can be activated to convey specific signals throughout the cell and organism. Mammals have at least 7 sirtuin pathways that help to regulate everything from metabolism to cellular repair.
Pterostilbene is known to activate the SIRT1 pathway. SIRT1 activation causes a corresponding increase in the expression of p53, a protein that is known to protect DNA and even prevent cancer.
It is generally accepted that chronic, systemic inflammation can contribute to illness and disease. Behaviors, molecules, and other treatment protocols that reduce inflammation are critical to healthy aging.
The anti-inflammatory effects of pterostilbene have been demonstrated in several studies. In one study, it was shown to decrease inflammation regulated by tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha).
As mentioned above, pterostilbene has also demonstrated effectiveness as an antioxidant. By neutralizing free radicals, the compound is thought to further reduce inflammation.
Foods Rich in Pterostilbene
Pterostilbene naturally occurs in a variety of nuts, berries, and even certain trees. Most notably:
- Nuts, like almonds and peanuts
- Berries, like blueberries, cranberries, bilberries, lingonberries, and huckleberries
- Grape leaves and vines
- Tropical tree resins, also known as Dragon’s Blood Extract, which can be harvested from species like Croton, Pterocarpus, Daemonorops, or Dracaena (often collectively referred to as ‘dragon trees’)
Adding pterostilbene-rich foods like nuts, berries, and grape leaves is a generally healthy thing to do—as long as they do not cause food sensitivities or allergic reactions. However, natural food sources alone are not likely to deliver all the health benefits that have been documented in scientific studies.
Supplementing with Pterostilbene
A pterostilbene supplement is often the best way to get the health benefits of this exotic antioxidant. High quality supplements from a reputable manufacturer:
- Contain optimal concentrations of pterostilbene
- Make it easy to get the right dose daily
- Deliver health benefits of pterostilbene, without the added calories associated with eating only whole food sources
The last point is important when considering whole food sources for any nutrient or plant compound. As a rule of thumb, choose a supplement whenever it is impractical to obtain the recommended dose from whole foods alone.
For example, one of the most pterostilbene-rich berries is the blueberry. At most, there is about 0.18mg of pterostilbene per 300 grams of blueberries. To match the 50-100mg provided by most supplements, you would have to eat over 83,200-166,400 grams of blueberries every day.
In most cases, the best option is to do both. Choose a reputable supplement, and add a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods to your daily diet.
Common forms of pterostilbene supplements include:
- Skin creams
- Liquid tinctures (typically derived from Dragon’s Blood Extract)
Common Dosages and Formulations
Pterostilbene research is still in its early stages. At this time, there is no official recommended dose. However, it is generally believed that 250mg per day is safe for human consumption.
Dosage may also vary depending on the supplement ingredients. Most common formulations include:
- Pterostilbene (alone): 100-200mg/day
- Pterostilbene and Grape Extract: 50mg/day and 100mg/day, respectively
- NRPT (nicotinamide riboside and pterostilbene): 500mg/day and 100mg/day, respectively
A pterostilbene supplement is often the best way to get the health benefits of this exotic antioxidant. High quality supplements from a reputable manufacturer:
An In-depth Look at the Health Benefits of Pterostilbene
Although research on the benefits of pterostilbene is in its early stages, several studies with human participants paint a positive picture for the future of the plant-derived compound.
As a polyphenol, pterostilbene demonstrates exciting potential for promoting cellular health and longevity. Pterostilbene also has a unique chemical makeup that allows it to linger in the body much longer than other, better-known polyphenols like resveratrol.
Even more exciting, studies indicate the compound has the potential to confer many additional health benefits—ranging from weight management to improved mood and even neurogenesis—although more research is needed.
A note on human vs. animal trials: Below is a list of the major health benefits associated with pterostilbene. While the compound has been tested and deemed safe for human consumption, it is important to note that most studies to date have been conducted on animals and cell cultures.
This is not unusual; new compounds are often tested rigorously on animals and cell cultures prior to conducting human trials. It is reasonable to expect many more human trials in the coming years, fueled by both the efficacy and excitement generated by the past few years of initial pterostilbene research.
Health Benefits Observed in Human Studies
When it comes to diet and supplementation, health benefits largely hinge on bioavailability. In other words, the compound must be easy to consume, digest, and transport to where it is needed. This is true for all compounds, whether it’s a vegetable or a prescription medication.
Pterostilbene is highly bioavailable, which is one of the main reasons for its recent hype in the scientific community. Interestingly, it’s not about what pterostilbene has that makes it bioavailable—it’s about what’s missing.
Whereas resveratrol has three hydroxyl groups in its structure, pterostilbene has just one. Since hydroxyl groups assist in metabolism, having just one means the compound is more slowly metabolized.
Researchers note this unique structure makes pterostilbene easier to digest, more stable, and possesses greater potential for cellular uptake.
Aids in weight loss
It’s always interesting when a study yields unintended positive results. That’s exactly what happened in 2014, when a double-blind and placebo-controlled study saw participants drop in body weight while supplementing with a combination of pterostilbene and grape extract.
Participants were divided into four groups. Two groups were given varying doses of pterostilbene alone, one group was given pterostilbene with grape extract, and the control group was given a placebo.
After 8 weeks, participants taking the combination of pterostilbene and grape extract experienced decreases in both blood pressure and body weight.
Commenting on the study, researchers noted that “future studies should evaluate high dose pterostilbene with GE in a hypertensive population,” demonstrating an interest in using the combination to help treat and prevent cardiovascular disease.
Guards against free radical damage
There was a time when the free radical theory of aging was the most widely accepted explanation for why an organism’s cells degrade and die over time. Today, newer theories are slowly displacing the free radical theory, instead emphasizing the role of epigenetics and complex genetic pathways like sirtuins.
Yet, most evidence still suggests that free radicals are harmful. And that’s where antioxidants like pterostilbene come into play. Antioxidants have the ability to neutralize free radicals before they cause irreparable damage to the cell.
As a powerful and highly bioavailable antioxidant, pterostilbene has the potential to significantly reduce oxidative stress, thereby reducing the incidence of age-related cellular damage.
The antioxidant benefits of pterostilbene have been observed in human studies. According to a 2016 study published in Scientific Reports, the compound effectively neutralized free radicals in the cells of the eye by increasing superoxide dismutase 1 and peroxiredoxin-4. Proponents are hopeful that this type of antioxidant effect occurs in other cells and organs, however more research is needed.
Health Benefits Observed in Animal Studies and Cell-based Research
Improves insulin sensitivity
In 2017, more insight was gained on the role of pterostilbene and weight management. In one study, researchers in France and Spain discovered that the plant compound seemed to prevent the conversion of sugar to fatty tissue in the body.
The authors closed the study by praising pterostilbene for its unique properties, theorizing the results were due to the compound’s “anti-obesity” and “anti-diabetic” characteristics.
A second 2017 study went a little deeper. In addition to improving insulin sensitivity, researchers found pterostilbene to prevent existing fatty tissue from accumulating and growing.
Further studies in animals and cell cultures suggest the compound may also increase the production of insulin. In turn, the heightened levels of insulin cause a decrease in blood sugar. The effects were so pronounced, some scientists have compared the power of pterostilbene to the diabetes prescription drug, metformin.
Promotes healthy gut flora
The 21st century has seen massive leaps in the study and understanding of the human microbiome. Leading research now indicates that humans have about 10 microbial cells—bacteria, viruses, and fungi, among others—for every 1 human body cell. What’s more, the discovery of the gut-brain axis (GBA) has revealed a bi-directional relationship between the microbiome and brain.
Pterostilbene appears to improve gut flora, causing a cascade of secondary health benefits. In rodent studies, pterostilbene was shown to increase the growth of a unique type of bacteria that may play a role in healthy weight management and the prevention of obesity. This may also explain the compound’s ability to promote weight loss, as well as improve mood while reducing anxiety (see below).
Improves mood and memory
Pterostilbene’s unique chemical structure enables it to pass through the blood-brain barrier. That, combined with its effects on the gut microbiome, seem to generate a host of cognitive and neurological benefits.
In one study, rodents fed about 1-10mg pterostilbene per kilogram of bodyweight experienced a significant reduction in anxiety. Notably, rodents did not experience a corresponding reduction in motor function—a hallmark of other anti-anxiety medications.
This has sparked interest in the compound’s ability to provide an all-natural alternative for individuals who suffer with anxiety and panic disorders, although more research and human trials are needed.
In addition to exhibiting anti-anxiety effects, pterostilbene has been shown in separate studies to reverse the cognitive deficits that are common to aging mice. Specifically, researchers found pterostilbene to improve mood, dopamine release, and working memory in the test rodents.
Promotes neuroprotection, neurogenesis, and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease
It’s one thing to produce anti-anxiety effects and trigger neurotransmitter production. Lots of foods, spices, and herbs are capable of that. But it’s quite another to generate new brain tissue and protect it. According to some animal and cell-based studies, that’s exactly what pterostilbene can do.
In one rodent study, researchers discovered that administering dragon’s blood extract—a naturally occurring plant resin rich in pterostilbene—spurred cell growth in the brain’s hippocampus after just 4 weeks of treatment. As a result, researchers noted improved behavior and reduced depression in the subjects.
Two separate cell-based studies have shown evidence of pterostilbene’s efficacy as a neuroprotectant as well. In one, the compound was found to protect brain tissue against oxidative stress.
In another, pterostilbene-rich foods were found to prevent a specific type of oxidative damage commonly associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Each of these findings are promising, as the creation and preservation of brain tissue is paramount for healthy aging.
Improves heart and liver function
The effectiveness of pterostilbene’s antioxidant qualities have also been observed in animal and cell-based studies of the eyes, heart, and liver. In each case, pterostilbene has been found to improve cellular health and organ function by reducing oxidative stress.
In one study, researchers observed the effects of pterostilbene on rodents with pulmonary heart disease. Pulmonary heart disease is characterized by asymmetry in heart shape (an enlarged right side) and abnormal heartbeat, both of which contribute to an increase in oxidative stress.
After receiving doses ranging from 50-100mg per kilogram of body weight, researchers found the test rodents to have improved antioxidant response in the face of such stress.
A similar study was conducted to evaluate the impact of pterostilbene on damaged liver cells. Liver tissue is continually exposed to toxins as it cleans blood flowing from the stomach and intestines. In extreme cases, poor diet, addiction, and alcoholism can cause severe damage to liver tissue.
In one rodent study, pterostilbene was shown to prevent scarring known as liver fibrosis.
A second study conducted in 2017 further illustrated pterostilbene’s ability to improve liver health, with researchers noting the reduction in inflammation was likely a result of the compound’s ability to activate the SIRT-1 (sirtuin) signaling pathway.
Over the past decade, the dangers of chronic and systemic inflammation have been increasingly studied and publicized. Inflammation is now thought to play a causal role in many conditions and diseases, rather than just being a symptom.
As a result, physicians and consumers alike are now focusing their attention on compounds, behaviors, and treatment protocols that prevent systemic inflammation. In doing so, it is believed that premature aging and age-related illness can be slowed, and perhaps prevented entirely.
At least two rodent studies have demonstrated pterostilbene’s usefulness in preventing inflammation. In a 2017 study published by the Genetics and Molecular Research journal, researchers found pterostilbene to significantly improve symptoms associated with pancreatitis.
Not only is pancreatitis characterized by extreme inflammation, it is also fairly common; an estimated 220,000 Americans suffer with pancreatitis each year. For these individuals, a powerful antioxidant like pterostilbene might some day ease symptoms. For now, more studies and human trials are needed.
Pterostilbene’s inflammation-fighting abilities have been further documented by cell-based research. In a 2016 study published by the journal Cytokine, researchers examined the effect of pterostilbene on the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) of cultured cells. The ER plays a crucial role in inflammatory response, as well as the synthesis of proteins and lipids.
Following exposure to pterostilbene, researchers note the ER within the cells did not respond to inflammatory signals. This demonstrates pterostilbene’s ability to act as an anti-inflammatory in lab settings, making it a promising candidate for animal and human trials.
Potential Risks of Pterostilbene
As a plant-derived polyphenol, pterostilbene is considered safe and has no significant side effects when consuming up to 250mg daily. However, a few caveats must be considered:
- Always consult your physician prior to taking pterostilbene or making any changes to your diet or health care regimen.
- Although plant-derived, pterostilbene should not be taken in excessively high doses.
- At the time of this writing, no studies have been conducted on the safety of pterostilbene when used by children, pregnant women, or women who are breastfeeding. For that reason, each of the aforementioned individuals should avoid pterostilbene unless otherwise advised by their doctor.
- High doses of pterostilbene may cause an increase in LDL cholesterol. However, studies suggest taking grape extract may prevent a corresponding rise in LDL. In the study, participants were given 100mg grape extract and 50mg pterostilbene. If taking more than 50mg pterostilbene, users are cautioned that a proportional increase in grape seed may not deliver the same effect. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4099343/)
Potential Drug Interactions
At least two studies have indicated that pterostilbene has specific interactions when combined with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and certain chemotherapy drugs. In one study, pterostilbene was found to increase the effect of the SSRI sertraline.
In another, it was found to affect the chemotherapy drug gefitinib.
Anyone who takes these medications, or other medications that can be classified as SSRIs or chemotherapy drugs, must speak to their physician prior to supplementing with pterostilbene.
As a general rule, anyone who takes prescription medications or supplements should likewise consult their physician prior to supplementing with a pterostilbene product.
Conclusion: Looking Toward the Future with Pterostilbene
In a broader context, it is important to remember that research on pterostilbene has only just begun. To put this in perspective, consider: At the time of this writing (2022), a search for “resveratrol” returns over 15,000 results on PubMed.gov, a database of more than 30 million published scientific articles that is maintained by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
A search for “pterostilbene” returns just 706.
On the one hand, the discrepancy is a word of caution. There is much to be learned about pterostilbene, including both benefits and risks. On the other hand, the immense gap is exciting—with so many positive outcomes in so little time, one cannot help but wonder what the future holds for pterostilbene.
Grape Seed Extract, Piperine, PterostilbenePterostilbene is perhaps most similar to resveratrol, the plant-based antioxidant from grapes that gives red wine its purported health benefits. However, Pterostilbene may be up to 4x more bioavailable and provide greater benefits, but fewer studies have been conducted.$31 — or subscribe and save 5%
$31 — or subscribe and save 5%
- Trans-Pterostilbene (100mg) + Grape Seed Extract (200mg) + Piperine (10mg) per capsule only
- Pure fill capsules, no fillers or additional ingredients required
- 60 capsules per bottle
- Third-party lab tested for purity - certificates attached
- Contains no GMOs, artificial colours, preservatives, flavours or allergens
- Suitable for vegans
- 100% biodegradable packaging