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There are few things as tasty as a good blueberry, but science is showing that there could be more health benefits to this delicious fruit than people might think.

History

Pterostilbene (trans-3,5-dimethoxy-4-hydroxystilbene) is a naturally occurring dietary compound, part of the stilbene group of compounds, and the main antioxidant component of blueberries. It was first discovered in 1977 by Langcake and Pryce and has been studied for its antioxidant properties and potential health benefits [1].

Pterostilbene is chemically related to resveratrol, another popular dietary supplement; some studies suggest that it may be more useful for health than its close relation, sometimes giving rise to the suggestion that it may be a “better resveratrol”.

Pterostilbene in nature

Pterostilbene is found in blueberries, with the estimated content per blueberry varying between 99 ng to 520 ng, depending on the particular type of blueberry consumed [2-3]. To put this into perspective, an average blueberry punnet weighs around 340 grams.

If you ate the entire punnet, the total amount of pterostilbene you would get is only 0.03 to 0.18 mg, and based on the dose used in limited human studies of 100mg a day, that would be a huge amount of blueberries a day! Obviously this is completely impractical, and therefore obtaining enough from dietary means isn’t really a realistic proposition. Thankfully, pterostilbene is available as a dietary supplement from various suppliers globally.

In the interests of impartiality, we cannot recommend a particular brand or supplier, but needless to say, you should be spoiled for choice, as there are many places to obtain pterostilbene on the Internet.

Potential Health Benefits

Pterostilbene has increased bioavailability compared to resveratrol and other stilbene due to the presence of two methoxy groups, which cause it to exhibit increased lipophilic and oral absorption [4]. In animal studies, pterostilbene was shown to have 80% bioavailability compared to 20% for resveratrol, suggesting that it is a superior choice in direct comparison [5].

Various studies have demonstrated the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory [6], and anticarcinogenic properties of pterostilbene, which has led to the improved function of healthy cells and the inhibition of malignant cells [7-9].

Pterostilbene has been implicated in cardiovascular health. with one study showing that it has a protective effect against atherosclerosis [10] and another showing that it improves aspects of autophagy and helps to counteract the pro-atherosclerosis effect of oxidized low-density lipoprotein on vascular endothelial cells [11-12]. It has also demonstrated potential utility in treating ischemia-reperfusion injury [13].

Studies have also shown the potential of pterostilbene in relation to neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. A mouse study with mice with accelerated aging showed that pterostilbene, even in low doses, has a significant effect on improving cognitive ability [14].

Another study suggests that pterostilbene is involved in neural plasticity and the associated cognitive and motor functions and that rats given pterostilbene perform better in cognitive tests [15].

Pterostilbene is a powerful anti-inflammatory and can suppress NF-Kb, a protein complex that regulates the transcription of DNA, cytokine production and cell survival [16]. A recent study showed that pterostilbene can potentially treat severe acute pancreatitis by reducing serum levels of inflammatory TNF-a, IL-1b, and NF-kB and that it reduces the generation of reactive oxygen species.

Pterostilbene also has some data that suggests it might be useful for treating arthritis, and given its anti-inflammatory properties, this is hardly a surprise. While research is limited to date regarding arthritis, a rat study did suggest some potential for treating this condition [17].

While not unique to pterostilbene but important to mention, pterostilbene activates AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), a master regulator of cellular energy homeostasis. AMPK is one of the two catabolic signalling systems, the other being sirtuins; these two work together in a feedback loop and signal nutrient scarcity [18].

Increasing levels of these two pathways favors health and longevity (the opposite of the IIS and mTOR pathways, which reduce lifespan when their levels are increased). In combination, AMPK and sirtuins sense low energy states by detecting high AMP levels and high NAD+ levels, respectively.

AMPK activation has a number of positive effects on metabolism as well as autophagy [19]. It has been shown to influence lifespan in mice which were given metformin. Even better, AMPK even inhibits the mTOR signaling pathway, which increases autophagy [20-21].

Finally, pterostilbene also increases sirtuins, which are best known for their pro-longevity effects in dietary restriction experiments in a variety of animal species [22-23]. Sirtuins adjust cellular metabolism based on nutrient availability and regulate many metabolic functions, including DNA repair, genome stability, inflammatory response, apoptosis, cell cycle, and mitochondrial functions.

Disclaimer

This article is only a very brief summary. It is not intended as an exhaustive guide and is based on the interpretation of research data, which is speculative by nature. This article is not a substitute for consulting your physician about which supplements may or may not be right for you. We do not endorse supplement use or any product or supplement vendor, and all discussion here is for scientific interest.

Literature

[1]  Langcake, P., & Pryce, R. J. (1977). A new class of phytoalexins from grapevines. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, 33(2), 151-152.

[2]  Rimando, A. M., Kalt, W., Magee, J. B., Dewey, J., & Ballington, J. R. (2004). Resveratrol, pterostilbene, and piceatannol in vaccinium berries. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 52(15), 4713-4719.

[3]  Rodríguez-Bonilla, P., López-Nicolás, J. M., Méndez-Cazorla, L., & García-Carmona, F. (2011). Development of a reversed phase high performance liquid chromatography method based on the use of cyclodextrins as mobile phase additives to determine pterostilbene in blueberries. Journal of Chromatography B, 879(15), 1091-1097.

[4]  Perečko, T., Drábiková, K., Račková, L., Číž, M., Podborská, M., Lojek, A., … & Jančinová, V. (2010). Molecular targets of the natural antioxidant pterostilbene: effect on protein kinase C, caspase-3 and apoptosis in human neutrophils in vitro. Neuroendocrinology Letters, 31(2), 84.

[5]  Kapetanovic, I. M., Muzzio, M., Huang, Z., Thompson, T. N., & McCormick, D. L. (2011). Pharmacokinetics, oral bioavailability, and metabolic profile of resveratrol and its dimethylether analog, pterostilbene, in rats. Cancer chemotherapy and pharmacology, 68(3), 593-601.

[6]  Choo, Q. Y., Yeo, S. C. M., Ho, P. C., Tanaka, Y., & Lin, H. S. (2014). Pterostilbene surpassed resveratrol for anti-inflammatory application: Potency consideration and pharmacokinetics perspective. Journal of Functional Foods, 11, 352-362.

[7]  Rimando, A. M., Cuendet, M., Desmarchelier, C., Mehta, R. G., Pezzuto, J. M., & Duke, S. O. (2002). Cancer chemopreventive and antioxidant activities of pterostilbene, a naturally occurring analogue of resveratrol. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 50(12),

[8]  Remsberg, C. M., Yáñez, J. A., Ohgami, Y., Vega‐Villa, K. R., Rimando, A. M., & Davies, N. M. (2008). Pharmacometrics of pterostilbene: preclinical pharmacokinetics and metabolism, anticancer, antiinflammatory, antioxidant and analgesic activity. Phytotherapy Research, 22(2), 169-179.

[9]  Kong, Y., Chen, G., Xu, Z., Yang, G., Li, B., Wu, X., … & Chang, G. (2016). Pterostilbene induces apoptosis and cell cycle arrest in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma cells. Scientific Reports, 6.

[10] Ekshyyan, V. P., Hebert, V. Y., Khandelwal, A., & Dugas, T. R. (2007). Resveratrol inhibits rat aortic vascular smooth muscle cell proliferation via estrogen receptor dependent nitric oxide production. Journal of cardiovascular pharmacology, 50(1), 83-93.

[11] Zhang, L., Zhou, G., Song, W., Tan, X., Guo, Y., Zhou, B., … & Chen, L. (2012). Pterostilbene protects vascular endothelial cells against oxidized low-density lipoprotein-induced apoptosis in vitro and in vivo. Apoptosis, 17(1), 25-36.

[12]  Zhang, L., Cui, L., Zhou, G., Jing, H., Guo, Y., & Sun, W. (2013). Pterostilbene, a natural small-molecular compound, promotes cytoprotective macroautophagy in vascular endothelial cells. The Journal of nutritional biochemistry, 24(5), 903-911.

[13] Guo, Y., Zhang, L., Li, F., Hu, C. P., & Zhang, Z. (2016). Restoration of sirt1 function by pterostilbene attenuates hypoxia-reoxygenation injury in cardiomyocytes. European journal of pharmacology, 776, 26-33.

[14] Chang, J., Rimando, A., Pallas, M., Camins, A., Porquet, D., Reeves, J., … & Casadesus, G. (2012). Low-dose pterostilbene, but not resveratrol, is a potent neuromodulator in aging and Alzheimer’s disease. Neurobiology of aging, 33(9), 2062-2071.

[15] Joseph, J. A., Fisher, D. R., Cheng, V., Rimando, A. M., & Shukitt-Hale, B. (2008). Cellular and behavioral effects of stilbene resveratrol analogues: implications for reducing the deleterious effects of aging. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 56(22), 10544-10551.

[16]  Pan, M. H., Chang, Y. H., Tsai, M. L., Lai, C. S., Ho, S. Y., Badmaev, V., & Ho, C. T. (2008). Pterostilbene suppressed lipopolysaccharide-induced up-expression of iNOS and COX-2 in murine macrophages. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 56(16), 7502-7509.

[17] Macickova, T., Drábiková, K., Nosal, R., Bauerová, K., Mihalova, D., Harmatha, J., & Pecivova, J. (2009). In vivo effect of pinosylvin and pterostilbene in the animal model of adjuvant arthritis. Neuro endocrinology letters, 31, 91-95.

[18] Price, N. L., Gomes, A. P., Ling, A. J., Duarte, F. V., Martin-Montalvo, A., North, B. J., … & Hubbard, B. P. (2012). SIRT1 is required for AMPK activation and the beneficial effects of resveratrol on mitochondrial function. Cell metabolism, 15(5), 675-690.

[19]  Salminen, A., & Kaarniranta, K. (2012). AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) controls the aging process via an integrated signaling network. Ageing research reviews, 11(2), 230-241.

[20] Mihaylova, M. M., & Shaw, R. J. (2011). The AMPK signalling pathway coordinates cell growth, autophagy and metabolism. Nature cell biology, 13(9), 1016-1023.

[21]  Kim, J., Kundu, M., Viollet, B., & Guan, K. L. (2011). AMPK and mTOR regulate autophagy through direct phosphorylation of Ulk1. Nature cell biology, 13(2), 132-141.

[22] Guo, Y., Zhang, L., Li, F., Hu, C. P., & Zhang, Z. (2016). Restoration of sirt1 function by pterostilbene attenuates hypoxia-reoxygenation injury in cardiomyocytes. European journal of pharmacology, 776, 26-33.

[23] Cheng, Y., Di, S., Fan, C., Cai, L., Gao, C., Jiang, P., … & Li, T. (2016). SIRT1 activation by pterostilbene attenuates the skeletal muscle oxidative stress injury and mitochondrial dysfunction induced by ischemia reperfusion injury. Apoptosis, 21(8), 905-916.

CategoryBlog, Supplements
About the author

Steve Hill

As a scientific writer and a devoted advocate of healthy longevity and the technologies to promote them, Steve has provided the community with hundreds of educational articles, interviews, and podcasts, helping the general public to better understand aging and the means to modify its dynamics. His materials can be found at H+ Magazine, Longevity reporter, Psychology Today and Singularity Weblog. He is a co-author of the book “Aging Prevention for All” – a guide for the general public exploring evidence-based means to extend healthy life (in press).
  1. January 29, 2017

    Excellent article -clearly written and fairly easy to understand!

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