Pterostilbene, a natural compound found in blueberries and grapes, is steadily gaining attention in the scientific and medical communities for its potential health benefits in immunity, metabolism, and even cancer. However, safety concerns are always a consideration with any new dietary supplement.
Pterostilbene is a bioactive plant compound with potent antioxidant effects. It helps fight free radical damage associated with chronic diseases and aging.
Pterostilbene has many benefits, including protection against adverse health conditions like inflammation, oxidative stress, high blood pressure, diabetes, cognitive decline, neurological disease, and certain types of cancer.
Rich sources of pterostilbene include grapes, blueberries, and cranberries. The darker the color, the higher the pterostilbene concentration. Fully ripe blue/purple grapes have higher pterostilbene content than green or red varieties.
Studies show pterostilbene has superior chemical properties and better health benefits in terms of anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-cancer, or neuroprotective effects.
This article explores scientific evidence regarding the benefits of pterostilbene for well-being in the prevention and treatment of various medical conditions and evaluates its safety to help you make informed decisions before its use.
What is pterostilbene?
Pterostilbene is an organic polyphenol, a natural class of bioactive chemicals found in plants. It belongs to compounds known as stilbenes, the primary antioxidants found in grapes and blueberries. It exists in two forms: trans-pterostilbene and cis-pterostilbene. People commonly interchange pterostilbene and trans-pterostilbene, the more stable, absorbable, and bioavailable form.
Pterostilbene is chemically and structurally related to resveratrol and quercetin. Despite being a structural analog of resveratrol and having structural similarities with quercetin, pterostilbene is touted to be more efficient due to its superior chemical properties. In combination, pterostilbene, resveratrol, pterostilbene, and quercetin are shown to produce more potent health effects experimentally. Further research is needed to explore the therapeutic range of pterostilbene.
How does pterostilbene work?
Pterostilbene works through a variety of mechanisms to induce its potential health benefits, including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and the ability to modulate gene expression:
- Anti-inflammatory activity. Pterostilbene has been shown to have bioactive properties that curb inflammation at the molecular level by inhibiting the production of pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines. It can help reduce inflammation by blocking the activation of specific cellular pathways required during the onset and development of inflammation.
- Anti-oxidant activity. Pterostilbene is a potent antioxidant that helps to protect cells against oxidative damage caused by free radicals like the reactive oxygen species (ROS). It scavenges these free radicals and prevents them from damaging our important cellular components like DNA, enzymes, and proteins.
- Modulating gene expression. Pterostilbene can affect gene expression by activating or inhibiting specific genes involved in antioxidant defense, cellular repair, inflammation, and oxidative stress.
What are the benefits of pterostilbene?
Pterostilbene has multiple health benefits; however, most pterostilbene research is conducted in animal studies. While promising, evidence is still in the early phases of therapeutic investigations and human clinical trials are required to establish its effectiveness in human diseases.
Apart from its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, pterostilbene has been studied for several other potential health benefits.
Supports cognitive health
Pterostilbene has been shown to enhance cognitive function, including memory and learning abilities in animal studies. Further research revealed that it could protect the brain from neurological dysfunction and ameliorate issues like brain fog, brain edema, and ischemia.
Improves cardiovascular health
Pterostilbene has been shown to improve cardiovascular health by reducing the risk of atherosclerosis and improving lipid metabolism. Animal studies showed consumption of low-dosage pterostilbene supplements improved cholesterol metabolism, resulting in higher blood levels of HDL (good cholesterol) and lower levels of LDL (bad cholesterol).
Combats obesity and diabetes
Pterostilbene has been found to reduce body weight gain, fat accumulation, and inflammation associated with obesity. Additionally, it has been shown to have anti-diabetic effects, including lowering blood glucose levels and improving insulin sensitivity.
Pterostilbene has been found to inhibit the growth and kill various cancer cells in vitro and animal studies. It may also help against metastasis and prevent the formation of new blood vessels that tumors need to grow. Additionally, pterostilbene can enhance function and promote the proliferation of immune cells that combats cancer.
Promotes anti-aging mechanisms
Researchers are actively investigating the potential connection between pterostilbene and longevity. Pterostilbene has been found to have anti-aging effects by combating oxidative stress, promoting optimal mitochondrial functions, and supporting growth of new mitochondria. This ensures that cells have sufficient energy stores to maintain cellular processes during healthy aging. Pterostilbene may also improve cellular stress resistance, which can promote long-term longevity.
Pterostilbene can enhance the immune system. Under pterostilbene treatment, some immune cells become more active or proliferative, with beneficial effects during infection and disease. Evidence also suggests that pterostilbene has antimicrobial properties and exerts effective inhibition against specific bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Pterostilbene has about 60 to 100 times stronger effects as an antifungal agent than resveratrol. In addition, pterostilbene was more effective in controlling SARS-CoV-2 replication than resveratrol at low concentrations.
Any known side effects of pterostilbene?
Pterostilbene is generally considered safe and well-tolerated when taken at recommended doses. However, like any dietary supplement, it may cause side effects in some individuals. It is best to consult a physician before taking any new supplements.
Some of the reported side effects of pterostilbene consumption at large doses.
As the most common side effect of many supplements/drugs, some individuals experience stomach-related issues. This includes stomach upset, nausea, or diarrhea.
Research shows pterostilbene has strong anti-thrombotic or blood-thinning properties, which can increase the risk of bleeding. If you are taking blood-thinning medications like warfarin or aspirin, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider before taking pterostilbene supplements.
Interference with medications
Pterostilbene may interact with some medications, including anticoagulants, antiplatelet drugs, and drugs metabolized by the liver. It is important to talk to your healthcare provider before taking pterostilbene supplements if you are taking any medications.
Allergic reactions to pterostilbene are rare, but some individuals with immune issues may experience undesirable effects. Some may experience hives, rash, or difficulty breathing. Always consult your healthcare provider before starting new supplement regimens. In the case of allergic reactions, seek medical attention immediately.
Foods and natural sources that are rich in pterostilbene
With pterostilbene's promising health benefits, many people take advantage of it through dietary intake.
Some of the rich and natural sources of pterostilbene include:
- Japanese knotweed
- Cocoa powder
- Dark chocolate
Some nuts, like pecans, almonds, peanuts, and pistachios, also contain a small amount of pterostilbene. Incorporating these foods into a balanced diet may offer some health benefits, although the concentration of pterostilbene in these foods may not be sufficient to achieve therapeutic effects seen in supplement form with higher concentrations and purity.
Pterostilbene vs resveratrol: Which is better?
Pterostilbene may be better than resveratrol in several important contexts. Pterostilbene has higher bioavailability, oral absorption, and stability than resveratrol. Animal studies show pterostilbene has around 80% bioavailability compared to 20% in resveratrol. In terms of therapeutic effects, evidence suggests pterostilbene also has better anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-cancer, and neuroprotective effects.
Why should I take pterostilbene?
If you want to improve your overall health, reduce the risk of certain diseases, and potentially promote longevity, pterostilbene is a promising supplement.
When should I take it?
The timing of when to take pterostilbene may depend on the reason. Some studies suggest taking pterostilbene after a meal or with a meal containing fat may increase its absorption and bioavailability. Pterostilbene has increased bioavailability when formulated in a delivery system. In an independent study, researchers found fasting results in dramatically decreased bioavailability of pterostilbene.
Similarly, the recommended dosage of pterostilbene can vary depending on the reason for taking it, as well as the specific product used. Currently, there is no established standard dose for pterostilbene. Pterostilbene capsules range from 50-1,000 mg, but the most popular dosage recommendation considered safe for consumption is around 200-700 mg/day.
It's essential to follow the instructions on the specific pterostilbene supplement you are taking, as various products may have different dosing recommendations. Consult your healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen for your personalized health needs and considerations.
What are scientists saying about pterostilbene and its supplements?
Due to the excellent pharmacological properties and purported health benefits of pterostilbene, it has caught the attention of many scientists and researchers with a positive outlook. Despite pterostilbene having high bioavailability and rapid absorption, studies show pterostilbene does not significantly accumulate in the body. This is because pterostilbene is metabolized quickly by the liver and rapidly excreted in the urine and feces.
Scientists also found the chemical profile of pterostilbene allows it to cross the blood-brain barrier easily, leading to better neuroprotective effects. Overall, while the scientific community has shown interest in pterostilbene and its potential benefits, more research and human clinical trials are needed before any definitive conclusions can be drawn about its effectiveness as a dietary supplement or a candidate drug.
Is pterostilbene better than resveratrol?
Pterostilbene may be superior to resveratrol in several important aspects. Both have shown beneficial health effects, but research shows that pterostilbene is more bioavailable, metabolically stable, and potent in its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-cancer, and neuroprotective properties in some studies.
How much pterostilbene should you take per day?
While pterostilbene is considered generally safe and non-toxic even when taken at high levels, experts recommend a daily intake of moderate doses, about 200–700 mg. The best way to get it is through natural food sources, but extracts or supplements might be more advantageous for raising blood marker levels of good health.
What foods are rich in pterostilbene?
Foods high in pterostilbene include Japanese knotweed, blueberries, grapes, cranberries, and cocoa powder/chocolate. Pterostilbene is also high in the heartwood of Indian kino, Pterocarpus marsupium, traditionally used in herbal medicine. In addition, some other nuts contain pterostilbene in lower amounts: pecans, peanuts, almonds, and pistachios.
- Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity. A Review of Pterostilbene Antioxidant Activity and Disease Modification.
- The Journal of Surgical Research. Pterostilbene and cancer: current review.
- Apoptosis: an international journal on programmed cell death. Pterostilbene protects vascular endothelial cells against oxidized low-density lipoprotein-induced apoptosis in vitro and in vivo.
- Neurobiology of aging. Low-dose pterostilbene, but not resveratrol, is a potent neuromodulator in aging and Alzheimer's disease.
- Journal of Agricultural and Food chemistry. Pterostilbene, a new agonist for the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha-isoform, lowers plasma lipoproteins and cholesterol in hypercholesterolemic hamsters.
Show all references
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