Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

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Resveratrol helps spinal discs grow

Resveratrol is a powerful anabolic for spinal discs, researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago discovered when they did tests on the intervertebral discs of cattle. Resveratrol, a substance found in grapes and peanuts and popular with longevity seekers, may protect spinal discs in humans who overstrain their backs.

Resveratrol helps spinal discs grow
The intervertebral discs in the spine see illustration consist of an outer ring and an inner core. The outer ring, the annulus fibrosus, is made of collagen and is tough. Inside this is the nucleus pulposus, which is soft and made of proteoglycans, mainly aggrecan.

Spinal discs get damaged through age and physical exertion: work or sport. People with chronic lower back pain often have worn spinal discs. We're talking about over ten percent of the population, so there's a lot of research going on to find substances that can help restore spinal discs. One candidate is resveratrol, a substance found in plants which activates life-extending enzymes in cells. The illustration shows the structural formula of resveratrol.

The wearing down of the spinal cord is mainly due to inflammatory processes. These are caused by inflammatory proteins such as interleukine-1 [IL-1]. The breakdown of tissue in the spinal discs is started by enzymes such as MMP-13 and ADAMTS-4. These especially affect the aggrecan in the soft core of the disc.

The bigger the patch in the figure below, the more of the catabolic enzyme MMP-13 the researchers found in the hard annulus fibrosus [AF] and the soft nucleus pulposus [NP]. Resveratrol inhibits the production of the catabolic enzyme.

Resveratrol helps spinal discs grow

1: untreated spinal discs; 2: treated with IL-1 10 ng/ml; 3: bFGF 10 ng/ml; 4: IL-1 + RSV 200 microM; 5: bFGF + RSV 200 microM; 6: IL-1 + IL-1Ra 100ng/ml; 7: bFGF + IL-1Ra 100ng.

The figure below shows the effect of resveratrol on the accumulation of proteoglycan in the NP cells. Resveratrol doubled it. The addition of inflammatory proteins such as IL-1 hardly alters the stimulatory effect.

Resveratrol helps spinal discs grow

The accumulation of proteoglycan was partly due to the fact that the cells started to make more proteoglycan. The researchers measured the production by following at the absorption of marked sulphur in proteoglycan molecules. Once again, resveratrol blocked the effect of inflammatory proteins.

Resveratrol helps spinal discs grow

So, who knows: maybe resveratrol supplements could help protect your spinal discs against damage caused by squats and deadlifts. And they might also help people with back problems.

Now we're into the realms of speculation: do people who consume lots of phenolic compounds like resveratrol have fewer back problems?


That might make an interesting, albeit a little off-the-wall, epidemiological study.

Spine. 2008 Nov 15;33(24):2586-95.