Introducing Pterostilbene: The "Other" Resveratrol

By Michael A. Smith, MD

By now, just about everyone has heard about what my dad calls “the red wine supplement” — resveratrol. Unfortunately, only a few people (mostly Life Extension® members) have heard about its cousin: pterostilbene.

Well, as we predicted, pterostilbene is now making headlines. It turns out this antioxidant powerhouse may be even better than its famous cousin for boosting brain health.

What is Pterostilbene?

Pterostilbene, found in blueberries, grapes, and in the bark of the Indian Kino Tree, has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine. Pterostilbene and resveratrol are both stilbene compounds. They’re closely related structurally, which gives them similar but not identical functions.

Researchers have found that these two compounds work in a synergistic way to activate your “longevity genes.” Scientists have found that resveratrol first activates what are called upstream genes. These genes, in turn, then activate a number of additional disease-preventing genes that are involved in downstream metabolic reactions. In essence, resveratrol’s beneficial genetic action has a controlling effect on other genes.

Pterostilbene directly activates the genes that are “downstream” from the sites of resveratrol’s action. This complements resveratrol’s ability to help prevent cancer and diabetes, and helps support healthy blood lipids. Acting together, resveratrol and pterostilbene produce potent, longevity-promoting effects across the cycle of gene expression through complementary mechanisms.

However, new research is pointing towards pterostilbene as the next generation brain booster. Below we’ll take a look at the latest study showing the powerful benefits it promises for your noggin.

Pterostilbene Helps Old Mice Think Better

Both resveratrol and pterostilbene offer remarkable effects for both learning and memory. Although both compounds have shown benefit in this regard, it’s pterostilbene that was found to be most effective at preventing loss of the neurotransmitter dopamine from memory centers in aged rats.1

In the latest cognitive study2 done on rats, published in Neurobiology of Aging, again it was pterostilbene that showed the real benefit — not resveratrol. Two months of a pterostilbene-based diet significantly improved the rats’ performance during a standard memory test called the radial arm water maze when compared with control-fed animals.

Importantly, markers of cellular stress, inflammation, and nerve cell damage were reduced by pterostilbene but not by resveratrol. The way that pterostilbene helps your body hasn’t been fully understood yet, but the study’s authors believe that it positively influences an important inflammation regulator called PPAR — or peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor. PPAR is actually involved in many physiological reactions.2The researchers concluded, “… pterostilbene is a more potent modulator of cognition and cellular stress than resveratrol.”

One Giant Leap for Rat-kind?

We know what you’re probably thinking: These are rats! Sure, but all research has to start somewhere. Of course large-scale clinical trials on humans would be ideal, but unless you have a few million dollars to spare, they’re out of reach. However, smaller studies on humans are currently in the works.

As little as we like to admit it, rat brains really aren’t that different from human brains. Although it may seem like a leap, something that helps a rat think better is likely to help you think better too.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!


  1. J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Nov 26;56(22):10544-51.
  2. Neurobiology of Aging doi:10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2011.08.015 (


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