Strong bones and teeth are not just kid stuff—we especially need ways to promote them as we age because age-related bone loss is no joke. Forget the mere scraped knee if you slip and fall—one false step could mean a broken hip. But a popular supplement, often taken for cardiovascular vigor, can help build strong bones in adults, possibly protecting against osteoporosis.

The supplement is resveratrol, an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound famously found in red wine, red grape juice, grapes (it’s in the skins) and cacao, peanuts and blueberries.

Because resveratrol has such strong anti-inflammatory properties, Danish researchers reasoned that it might help put the brakes on the inflammation that causes bone weakening. They decided to investigate this in people who have metabolic syndrome, a combination of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar, because their condition puts them at risk for bone weakening. But you don’t have to have metabolic syndrome to suffer from systemic inflammation and bone loss…so, anyone who wants to maintain strong bones, pay attention.

The researchers recruited 66 middle-aged men with metabolic syndrome but not osteoporosis and started tracking the effect of resveratrol on bone-forming enzymes and bone density in the men’s lower spines. They did this by dividing the participants into three groups. One group received 1,000 milligrams (mg) per day of a natural formulation of resveratrol called transresveratrol (as a 500-mg pill taken twice a day), another group received 150 mg (as a 75-mg pill taken twice a day), and the third group received placebo pills.

The results: It didn’t take long for the resveratrol to make its mark. After only four months, the men who took the higher daily dosage of resveratrol had a 16% increase in a bone-forming enzyme called bone alkaline phosphatase, commonly found in children who are going through growth spurts. They also had 3% more bone density than they had at the start of the study. Meanwhile no changes were seen in the placebo group, and minimal changes were seen in the low-dose resveratrol group.

Does this mean that resveratrol can be a natural substitute for osteoporosis drugs, such as Forteo and Fosamax? Probably not—studies show that these drugs have a stronger effect on bone mass than the 3% improvement seen in this study of resveratrol. But who knows? Additional studies of the supplement that look at the impact of different doses over longer time periods may provide more promising information about resveratrol and bone health. In the meantime, resveratrol supplementation might be a smart way to support your body’s bone-building potential to protect against bone loss.


If you are interested in taking a resveratrol supplement, check labels to make sure you are purchasing transresveratrol, since, as we mentioned in this other Bottom Line report, a synthetic formulation of resveratrol may not deliver the same health benefit as transresveratrol.