Resveratrol may help prevent diabetic retinopathy.

Research suggests that resveratrol’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties may be able to help prevent or reduce the symptoms and worsening of eye conditions due to diabetes. With the growing pandemic of diabetes and the difficulty in treating it and the complications that arise from diabetes, any potential for effective and safe preventive and therapeutic options for diabetics is good news. Resveratrol has also been shown in animal studies to help lower blood sugar levels and improve sugar metabolism in diabetes, which may help counteract the underlying condition that leads to eye disease and vision loss.21,45,122

By 2030 the World Health Organization estimates that 366 million people will have diabetes, and quite a few of them will have some form of serious eye disease as a complication of the condition.122 Diabetes is characterized by an inability to metabolize sugar in the blood because cell membranes become insensitive to the hormone (insulin) necessary to do so.122 Inflammatory in nature, some of the eye diseases (such as diabetic retinopathy) diabetes causes are also now thought of as chronic inflammatory conditions.131

There are three different severe eye conditions that can occur as a diabetic complication, and all can lead to blindness:132


Typically associated with aging, having diabetes significantly increases the risk of developing cataracts and at a younger age. According to one study, even non-diabetics who have higher than normal fasting blood sugar levels could be facing double the risk of developing a certain type of cataract (as compared to those with normal fasting glucose levels). Other research indicates that the greater length of time a person is diabetic and higher blood sugar levels are both associated with increased risk of cataracts.132-133

Diabetic Retinopathy

Considered the most common diabetic eye condition, diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes and is also a leading cause of blindness.132 The longer a person has diabetes the more at risk they are of getting retinopathy—with almost 60% developing it after 10 years and 97% after 25 years.131 Chronic high blood sugar levels are a serious risk factor for retinopathy, because even after control of blood sugar is achieved the negative impact prior to control continues due to long-term damaging alterations at the cellular level.131 High blood pressure, and abnormal cholesterol levels, which diabetics are at higher risk of developing, are also major risk factors for retinopathy.131

The disease is characterized by damage to and blockage in existing small blood vessels leading to the development of abnormal blood vessels on the surface of the retina that are fragile and can leak blood. This leakage is what causes loss of vision.132


Diabetics have double the risk of developing glaucoma compared to non-diabetic adults. Typically in diabetics the abnormally high pressure in the vitreous fluid of the eye causes damage to the optic nerve, which can lead to blindness.132

However, high pressure is not always a symptom and cause of the nerve damage. Sometimes abnormal blood vessel formation in the iris and other parts of the eye can also cause glaucoma.133

Other Eye Problems

Resveratrol’s anti-inflammatory properties and demonstrated ability to lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels may also help with other eye conditions. Studies indicate that diabetics are also prone to other less serious eye conditions, such as:133

  • Blepharitis—Scaly, crusty, red, and inflamed eyelid edges and eyelash follicle, possible due to infection.
  • Orbital cellulitis—eye infection.
  • Xanthalasma—yellow lumps of cholesterol deposits on or around the eyelids.
Evidence of Benefit
Effect Way It Works Level of Evidence
Reduces eye inflammation caused by bacteria, which diabetics have increased susceptibility to.47,134
  • Suppresses excess inflammatory response.47,
  • Stimulates SIRT1 gene activity which helps the body respond to damage.47,
Animal study.47,
Improves blood flow to retina.135
  • Increases dilation of small blood vessels by stimulating production of nitrous oxide, which relaxes blood vessel wall cells.135
Lab study.135
Prevents retina cell damage and/or death from high sugar levels.48
  • Helps lower blood sugar levels by increasing glucose metabolism and increasing insulin sensitivity.21,45
  • Blocks production of inflammatory proteins.49
  • Inhibits CaMKII, a protein activated by diabetes and associated with death of nerve cells in the eye.48
Lab and animal studies.21,45,48-49
Prevents and eliminates abnormal blood vessels and swelling or thickening in the macula.46
  • Inhibits free radical stimulation of inflammatory proteins and secretion of the growth factor VEGF,10,127 known to promote blood vessel growth and macular edema in diabetic retinopathy.131
  • Works by activating an enzyme that then blocks the protein that produces these blood vessels.46
  • May blocks production of inflammatory proteins and VEGF caused by high sugar levels.49 However, other lab studies suggest that resveratrol may have the opposite effect at the low doses (1-10 μM) used in the above-mentioned study.128
Lab and animal experiments.10,46
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With some estimates, from the International Diabetes Federation,
reaching as high as 438 million by 2030
Primarily, glucose from carbohydrates in food.
Clouding of the eye lens.

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