Resveratrol and Longevity
What is Resveratrol
Resveratrol is a substance, which is found in many plant sources, such as red grapes and red wine, peanuts, and different types of berries.
Many believe that resveratrol is the reason behind the so-called French paradox. This paradox describes the fact that French people have relatively low incidence of cardiovascular disease, even though their diet includes plenty of saturated fats, which are thought to contribute to heart disease.
So, what is the reason for that?
French are known for their wine drinking culture. That is why many believe that red wine and its active ingredients are the source of heart protecting substances. Among other polyphenols and flavonoids in wine, resveratrol is thought to be the one that most contributes to longevity.
Calorie Restriction is Among the Most Important Factors That Affect Longevity
In the last century, we have seen a dramatic increase in life expectancy. In many developed countries, people on average live longer than 80 years. Scientists believe, though, that life expectancy can still be increased.
There are many factors that affect lifespan. However, one thing seems to stand out – and that is decreasing your calorie intake. Studies on aging have consistently shown that calorie restriction leads to dramatically longer lifespan.
Human body perceives starvation as a time of stress. In response to this stress, the body activates the so called longevity genes (sirtuin genes – silent information regulator proteins). These genes are shared by almost all living organisms and function as a system that enhances survival during harsh living conditions.
Once these genes are turned on, they trigger defensive mechanisms on cellular level. These mechanisms also fight the diseases of aging and lead to longer life.
Studies in mice have shown that starvation can increase their lifespan to the human equivalent of 162 years. Similar results have been observed in other small animals, such as fruit flies and worms.
However, most people don't want to live their lives in semi-starvation. That is why scientists have been looking for other ways to activate the sirtuin genes. And here is where resveratrol comes into play.
Resveratrol Mimics the Effects of Calorie Restriction
Resveratrol offers many health benefits.
- It promotes heart health. It does that by increasing flow in the arteries, inhibiting blood clotting, and decreasing the levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol.
- Resveratrol also acts anti-inflammatory. It lowers inflammation throughout the body; it is also able to cross the blood-brain barrier and thus lowering the inflammation in the brain. It is well known that chronic low level inflammation is the cause of many age related diseases – including heart disease and cancer - so decreasing inflammation is an important step towards better health and increased lifespan.
- Studies have also shown that resveratrol is a powerful cancer inhibitor. It suppresses the cancer in all its stages – the tumor initiation, growth and progression.
- Resveratrol is also known for its antioxidant activity (it limits the damage done by free radicals in the body).
But most specifically related to longevity is the way resveratrol mimics the effect of calorie restriction on human body.
Resveratrol is a potent sirtuin activator. It is able to directly bind to the sirtuin protein and activate the guardian genes.
Resveratrol promotes longevity in a similar way as calorie restriction – it directly activates the sirtuin genes.
What Do The Studies Say?
Animal studies have shown that resveratrol significantly increases lifespan of yeasts, certain worms, and small animals such as mice.
Human research on aging and longevity hasn’t yet been able to duplicate such promising results.
Still, many studies conclusively show that resveratrol has a beneficial effect on heart health and glucose metabolism (resveratrol relieves insulin resistance and helps with diabetes type 2).
That is why lots of people are taking resveratrol as part of their daily supplementation regime. Time will show how long term taking affects lifespan.
How to Take Resveratrol?
Although resveratrol is found in many foods, its concentration is usually far too low to provide the desired health results. For that reason, many choose to take a resveratrol supplement.
Supplements typically contain about 200 to 500 mgs or resveratrol per serving. For comparison – 1 liter of red wine provides between 2 and 7 mgs of resveratrol (depending on the wine species and geographic origin).
Studies haven’t found any health risks of resveratrol supplementation in doses up to 5 grams per day. Some people, though, may experience some stomach discomfort and diarrhea. Read through our article on How to take resveratrol to find out more about dosage, side effects and possible interactions with other supplements and prescription medications.
Resveratrol supplementation is considered safe in doses up to 5 grams per day. Most supplements contain between 200 and 500 mgs of resveratrol per capsule.
Even though resveratrol is most commonly associated with red grapes and wine, most of the supplements on the market contain resveratrol from the roots of Japanese knotweed. This plant contains a substance, called emodin, which is a type of laxative and the reason for abdominal side effects.
Most manufacturers try to remove as much emodin as possible. If you, however, still experience side effects, you must discontinue the use of your supplement and look for other resveratrol brands. Learn more about high quality resveratrol supplements in our article Popular resveratrol supplements.
- New study validates longevity pathway. Harvard Medical School. http://hms.harvard.edu/news/new-study-validates-longevity-pathway-3-7-13
- Resveratrol Mimics Caloric Restriction to Turn on “Longevity Genes”. http://nutritionreview.org/2013/04/resveratrol-mimics-caloric-restriction-longevity-genes/
- Caloric restriction, SIRT1 and longevity. Carles Cantó, Johan Auwerx. Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2009 Sept. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1043276009000915
- The effect of resveratrol on longevity across species: a meta-analysis. Katie L. Hector , Malgorzata Lagisz , Shinichi Nakagawa. 2012 June. http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2012/06/13/rsbl.2012.0316
- Resveratrol and red wine, healthy heart and longevity. Das DK, Mukherjee S, Ray D. Heart failura reviews. 2010 Sep. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20238161
- Longevity nutrients resveratrol, wines and grapes. Istvan Lekli, Diptarka Ray, Dipak K. Das. Genes & Nutrition. 2010 March. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12263-009-0145-2
- Resveratrol Delays Age-Related Deterioration and Mimics Transcriptional Aspects of Dietary Restriction without Extending Life Span. Kevin J. Perason et al. Cell Metabolism. 2008 August. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1550413108001824