Pterostilbene: A Cholesterol and Blood Sugar Improving Anti-Cancer Nutrient

Pterostilbene, like its cousin resveratrol, is gaining world-wide attention for its rather dramatic ability to improve human health, protect against the diseases of aging, and extend lifespan1.

Pterostilbene is found in small amounts in blueberries and grapes, but the most cost effective source is from the bark and heartwood of a tree that grows in India and Sri Lanka (Pterocarpus marsupium or Indian Kino Tree). 


Pterostilbene for Blood Sugar and Lipid Metabolism

Extracts of Pterocarpus marsupium have been used in Ayurvedic medicine for several thousand years for the treatment of diabetes. Modern day animal research on Pterocarpus marsupium helps support its traditional folk medicine use, showing it can:

  1. Rejuvenate beta cells in the pancreas2 (the cells that produce insulin).
  2. Prevent elevated blood sugar, triglycerides, and insulin resistance from a high fructose diet3.
  3. Lower weight, blood sugar, and inflammation in Type 2 diabetes4.
  4. Lower triglycerides, total cholesterol, and LDL- and VLDL-cholesterol in diet-induced hyperlipidemia5.

In today’s marketplace extracts of Pterocarpus marsupium can be standardized for its most important biologically active compound, pterostilbene6 (pronounced “tero-STILL-bean”). This nutrient is a type of polyphenol known as a stilbenoid, as is resveratrol.  Stilbenoids are very small molecules that are readily absorbed, wherein they participate in antioxidant systems, anti-inflammatory systems (lowering NF-kappaB and unfriendly nitric oxide8), and can have profound regulatory impact on multiple gene signals. Pterostilbene has two methoxy and one hydroxyl group, whereas resveratrol has three hydroxyl groups. These small differences in an otherwise identical structure enable quite different function. For one thing this enables pterostilbene to be absorbed into cells easier and makes it slower to be cleared out of the body, compared to resveratrol.  Pterostilbene excels as an antioxidant between cells (such as inflammatory tissue damage9) whereas reseveratrol excels at protecting cells in the blood.  Resveratrol specializes in activating the longevity gene SIRT1, whereas pterostilbene has a profound effect on the fat/lipid metabolizing gene PPAR (both nutrients activate many genes). Stilbenoids are synthesized by plants in response to infectious attack, making them excellent immune support nutrients. The unique structure of pterostilbene makes it 5-10 times as potent an anti-fungal as resveratrol.

When pterostilbene enters a cell, it easily binds to the receptors for PPAR activation10, enabling improved metabolism of triglycerides, cholesterol, and blood sugar. Hamster studies show that PPAR activation with pterostilbene11 lowered LDL cholesterol by 29%, lowered blood sugar by 14%, and boosted protective HDL Cholesterol by 7%.

The major problem of high blood sugar is that it caramelizes healthy body structure by forming advanced glycation end products (AGEs), thereby speeding the decline of the kidneys, heart, eyes, and all things flexible. A new study shows that pterostilbene can directly block the formation of AGEs12. Another study showed that pterostilbene lowered hemoglobin A1C13 in diabetic rats (a marker that predicts AGEs formation). And yet another study showed that this versatile nutrient prevented damage to the liver and kidneys14 of diabetic rats.

The abnormal proliferation of cells within the walls of arteries takes place during the plaque formation process. An animal study shows that pterostilbene15 inhibited this undesirable process. The researchers concluded that “pterostilbene may be a potential anti-proliferative agent for the treatment of atherosclerosis.”

The metabolic science on pterostilbene along with its traditional folk use, warrant its inclusion along with other synergistic nutrients to support healthy metabolism of lipids and blood sugar.

Pterostilbene as an Anti-Cancer Nutrient

One of the great problems of being overweight is that it significantly boosts the risk for cancer including aggressive breast and prostate cancer. Not only does pterostilbene help support the return of normal metabolism, it is one of the most heavily researched anti-cancer compounds.

As a small molecule, pterostilbene has no problem gaining access into cancer cells. It appears to be a cancer cell’s worst nightmare. It damages a cancer cell’s membrane and DNA and induces death signals causing self-destruction. This was recently shown with studies of both breast and prostate cancer cells16.  In another recent breast cancer cell study, pterostilbene caused the energy-producing system within the cancer cell to malfunction and generate massive amounts of free radicals instead of energy, resulting in breast cancer cell death17. Similar findings have now been demonstrated with pancreatic cancer cells18. Pterostilbene has also been shown to inhibit colon cancer19, lung cancer20, liver cancer21, and skin cancer22.

In a recent study with bladder cancer cells23 pterostilbene was shown for the first time to activate the autophagy process wherein a cell is commanded to eat itself, thereby inducing cell death. In normal health, autophagy is used to help keep a cell clean, which prevents cancer. It is amazing, that the intelligence to help healthy cells and help kill cancer cells exists, by important mechanisms like autophagy.

Pterostilbene is a nutrient you are sure to hear more about. It works by multiple mechanisms at the gene level to promote metabolic health and the risk of cancer.

Monday, February 07, 2011  –  Byron Richards, CCN

Referenced Studies:

  1. ^ Blueberries Contain the Anti-Aging Compound Pterostilbene  J Agric Food Chem.  Joseph JA, Fisher DR, Cheng V, Rimando AM, Shukitt-Hale B.
  2. ^ Pterocarpus Marsupium and Beta Cell Rejuvenation  J Clin Biochem Nutr.  Manisha Modak, Priyanjali Dixit, Jayant Londhe, Saroj Ghaskadbi, and Thomas Paul A. Devasagayam.
  3. ^ Pterocarpus Marsupium Offsets Stress of a High Fructose Diet  Diabetes Obes Metab.   Grover JK, Vats V, Yadav SS.
  4. ^ Pterocarpus Marsupium Lowers Weight, Blood Sugar, and Inflammation in Type 2 Diabetes  Indian J Pharmacol.  Halagappa K, Girish HN, Srinivasan BP.
  5. ^ Pterocarpus Marsupium Lowers Multiple Lipids  J Nat Prod.  Jahromi MA, Ray AB.
  6. ^ The Power of Pterostilbene  Plant Physiol.  Schmidlin L, Poutaraud A, Claudel P, Mestre P, Prado E, Santos-Rosa M, Wiedemann-Merdinoglu S, Karst F, Merdinoglu D, Hugueney P.
  7. ^ Pterostilbene Lowers NF-kappaB and iNOS  J Agric Food Chem  Pan MH, Chang YH, Tsai ML, Lai CS, Ho SY, Badmaev V, Ho CT.
  8. ^ Pterostilbene Lowers TNFa and iNOS  Chem Biol Interact.  Meng XL, Yang JY, Chen GL, Wang LH, Zhang LJ, Wang S, Li J, Wu CF.
  9. ^ Stilbenoids Are Potent Anti-Oxidants   Neuro Endocrinol Lett.  Perecko T, Jancinova V, Drabikova K, Nosal R, Harmatha J.
  10. ^ Pterostilbene Binds to PPAR Alpha  Bioorg Med Chem.  Mizuno CS, Ma G, Khan S, Patny A, Avery MA, Rimando AM.
  11. ^ Pterostilbene Activates PPAR  J Agric Food Chem.   Rimando AM, Nagmani R, Feller DR, Yokoyama W.
  12. ^ Pterostilbene Inhibits Formation of AGEs  J Agric Food Chem.  Lv L, Shao X, Wang L, Huang D, Ho CT, Sang S.
  13. ^ Pterostilbene Reduces Hemoglobin A1C in Diabetic Rats  Life Sci.  Pari L, Satheesh MA.
  14. ^ Pterostilbene Protects Liver and Kidneys of Diabetic Rats  J Pharm Pharmacol.  Amarnath Satheesh M, Pari L.
  15. ^ Pterostilbene Inhibits Atherosclerosis  Vascul Pharmacol.   Park ES, Lim Y, Hong JT, Yoo HS, Lee CK, Pyo MY, Yun YP.
  16. ^ Pterostilben Klls Breast and Prostate Cancer Cells  Toxicol In Vitro  Chakraborty A, Gupta N, Ghosh K, Roy P.
  17. ^ Pterostilbene Induces Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Breast Cancer Cells  J Surg Res.  Alosi JA, McDonald DE, Schneider JS, Privette AR, McFadden DW.
  18. ^ Pterostilbene Inhibits Pancreatic Cancer  J Gastrointest Surg.  Mannal PW, Alosi JA, Schneider JG, McDonald DE, McFadden DW.
  19. ^ Pterostilbene Inhibits Colon Carcinogenesis  J Agric Food Chem.   Chiou YS, Tsai ML, Wang YJ, Cheng AC, Lai WM, Badmaev V, Ho CT, Pan MH.
  20. ^ Pterostilbene Inhibits Lung Cancer  J Surg Res.   Schneider JG, Alosi JA, McDonald DE, McFadden DW.
  21. ^ Pterostilbene Inhibits Liver Cancer  Pterostilbene Inhibits Liver Cancer  Pan MH, Chiou YS, Chen WJ, Wang JM, Badmaev V, Ho CT.
  22. ^ Pterostilbene Inhibits Melanoma  Am J Surg.   Schneider JG, Alosi JA, McDonald DE, McFadden DW.
  23. ^ Pterostilbene Induces Autophagy-Driven Cell Death in Bladder Cancer Cells  Mol Nutr Food Res  Chen RJ, Ho CT, Wang YJ.
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