Overview of Stilbenes in Plants

red wine
Quentin Houyoux

Stilbenes are natural compounds found in some types of plants. Some stilbenes may have health benefits. They belong to a sub-group of phytochemicals called polyphenols.

Stilbenes aren't as common as other polyphenols. You've probably read about numerous different flavonoids, lignans or phenolic acids, but there are only two stilbenes of note: resveratrol and pterostilbene. They are only found in small amounts in some of the foods you eat.

Resveratrol in the Foods You Eat

Resveratrol is quite well known. It's found in grape skins, red wine, peanuts, blueberries, and cranberries and has been studied for its potential health benefits. Research has suggested that resveratrol can be taken safely up to 1gram daily, but more studies need to be conducted.

Observational studies show people who drink red wine tend to have lower risks of cardiovascular disease. But it isn't known how much of that effect is due to resveratrol or if people who have lower risks of heart disease just happen to drink a little more wine than individuals who have higher risks. Also keep in mind that health experts advise that if you choose to consume alcohol, it should be consumed in moderation. Current dietary guidelines indicate that alcoholic beverages (if consumed) should be limited to two drinks or fewer a day for men and one drink or fewer a day for women.

Laboratory studies show that resveratrol acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent in some laboratory animals, but there is very little information on resveratrol use in humans, or how much would be needed to show any health benefits.

Chances are, however, that the amount required is too high to achieve with dietary sources alone, so any advantage would come from supplements. But, dietary supplements aren't regulated for all that well for efficacy. And we don't know how much to take, or if it will do anything anyway.

Pterostilbene in Food

Pterostilbene is found in blueberries and grapes. It's an antioxidant that has shown promise in the treatment and prevention of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and cognitive decline. But it's only been tested in lab animals and on tests of human cells. Currently, there aren't any clinical trial studies in humans. Adding more healthful fruits to your diet may be an enjoyable choice.

A Word From Verywell

Some of these stilbenes are sold as supplements, but please speak to your healthcare provider before taking any types of dietary supplements. Resveratrol may interact with blood thinners and increase your risk of bleeding. There may be other side effects identified.

2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Weiskirchen S, Weiskirchen R. Resveratrol: How much wine do you have to drink to stay healthy?. Adv Nutr. 2016;7(4):706-718. doi:10.3945/an.115.011627

  2. United States Department of Agriculture. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Additional Reading

By Shereen Lehman, MS
Shereen Lehman, MS, is a former writer for Verywell Fit and Reuters Health. She's a healthcare journalist who writes about healthy eating and offers evidence-based advice for regular people.