Health Benefits of Resveratrol

Resveratrol has gained increasing popularity in the recent years. It is well-known for its health benefits, which include promotion of heart health, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. Resveratrol can even help you fight insulin resistance and lose weight.

What is Resveratrol

Resveratrol is a natural substance, found in many plant sources. Plants produce resveratrol in response to various stresses from the environments, such as UV radiation, heat, fungal infections, and injury. In nature, resveratrol can be found in grapes, red grape juice and wine, peanuts, and berries (mulberries, blueberries, cranberries, and bilberries). In grapes, resveratrol can only be found in their skins.

Resveratrol and Wine

Most commonly known dietary source of resveratrol is wine.

Red wine has much higher levels of resveratrol than white wine. Resveratrol content in wine also depends on the grape species, its geographic origin, and fermentation time. Wines that grow in cooler climates have more resveratrol than wines from warmer climates. In general, the wines with highest resveratrol content are malbec, pinot noir, saint Laurent, and petite sirah.

Chemical Properties of Resveratrol

Resveratrol is a part of a group of chemicals that are called polyphenols – organic chemicals, known for their health benefits. Among other things, polyphenols are believed to help protect the body against cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Resveratrol comes in two molecular forms – cis resveratrol and trans resveratrol. Trans resveratrol is more stable at normal room conditions and is supposed to be more bioavailable. It is the form of resveratrol, which is typically available in health supplements.

Resveratrol in Traditional Medicine

Besides grapes and wine, resveratrol can also be found in the roots and stems of the plant Fallopia Japonica - also known as Japanese knotweed. In traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine, dried roots and stems of this plant are used for making circulatory tonic (often called tiger cane, Hu Chang, or kojo-kon).

Traditional Indian ayurvedic tonic Drakshasava is made from grapes and also contains resveratrol. Basically, this is a wine with low alcoholic contents since the grape juice is only partially fermented. The tonic is used for treating lethargy, heat exhaustion, and weakness.

Plants, containing resveratrol, have been extensively used in Indian, Chinese and Japanese traditional medicine.

Most of the supplements that are marketed in Europe and US are typically made from Japanese knotweed or red grape extracts.

What Are The Health Benefits of Resveratrol?

First reports about resveratrol surfaced around 1990. At that time, it was discovered that resveratrol is one of the ingredients in red wine. Scientists have believed that the presence of resveratrol may help explain the so-called French paradox.

This phrase describes the somewhat confusing fact that French have a low rate of cardiovascular disease, even though their diet is high in saturated fats, which are supposed to contribute to heart disease.

From that time on, resveratrol has been the subject of many studies; both in vitro (laboratory tubes), as well as in vivo (tests made on animals and humans). The research is still in early stages, though. The results in test tubes have been quite promising; yet animal and clinical studies in humans haven’t been able to replicate such optimistic results.

The reason behind this is probably low bioavailability of resveratrol. Even though the substance is easily absorbed, it is also quickly eliminated from the body. That is why resveratrol concentration in body tissues is typically not high enough to provide the desired benefits. In other words – you would need to consume extremely large doses of resveratrol to see health results.

Early research has found the following health benefits of resveratrol:

Offers protection against heart disease

Resveratrol contributes to cardiovascular health in a number of ways. It reduces the inflammation in the arteries, it helps prevent the oxidation of the so called ‘bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol), increases the level of ‘good cholesterol’ (HDL cholesterol), and it prevents the formation of blood clots, which could lead to heart attack.

Lowers inflammation in the body

Resveratrol is an antioxidant, which means that it fights the damage caused by free radicals in the body. It also suppresses the creation of pro-inflammatory substances, such as nf kappa b and activator protein-1.

Shows anti-aging potential

Animal studies have shown that resveratrol offers some protection against age-related problems. It promotes longevity and mimics the beneficial effects of calorie restriction on lifespan by activating the SIRT1 gene (studies have shown that diets with very low calories lead to longer life). Resveratrol also helps to protect the body against the harmful effects of obesity by modulating metabolic processes.

Has anti-cancer properties

Resveratrol  fights cancer by preventing the replication of cancer cells and triggering the process of apoptosis (cancer cell death).

Contributes to brain health and offers help with brain disease

Studies have shown that resveratrol contributes to better memory and improves other cognitive abilities. This is probably achieved through enhancing blood flow to the brain, lowering brain inflammation, and improving blood sugar regulation.

Resveratrol also seem to help with several brains diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, stroke, Huntington’s disease, and so on – even though the exact mechanism in which resveratrol works for these diseases is still not explained.

Improves insulin resistance and helps with diabetes

One of the major benefits of resveratrol is its effect on blood sugar regulation. The evidence for this is strong – studies show that resveratrol helps regulate blood sugar, improves insulin resistance, decreases food cravings, and helps with weight loss.

Improves muscle health and regeneration

Resveratrol enhances muscle regeneration and helps skeletal muscle cells resist against oxidative stress and injury. Muscles that have been weakened due disuse (following an illness or injury) grow back faster with the help of resveratrol supplementation.

How Much Resveratrol Should You Take?

Resveratrol is considered as dietary supplement and therefore it is not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration. That is why it is impossible to get any guarantee of effectiveness or safety; the best way to go is to get your supplement from a well-know, trusted manufacturer.

Resveratrol supplements are typically available in pill or powder form. You can, however, also find resveratrol in liquid solutions, transdermal patches, and creams. Absorption is increased when resveratrol is micronized (a process, during which resveratrol is broken down in smaller particles).

Most supplements contain between 250 mg and 500 mg of resveratrol per serving. Studies on resveratrol that have been made till date haven’t found any adverse effects in humans, even when resveratrol has been taken in much larger doses (up to 5 grams per day).

Resveratrol supplements might interfere with some blood thinners and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAID-s), which may increase the risk of bleeding (when you take resveratrol in high doses).

You might also be interested in:

  1. Resveratrol suppresses TNF-induced activation of nuclear transcription factors NF-kappa B, activator protein-1, and apoptosis: potential role of reactive oxygen intermediates and lipid peroxidation. Manna SK, Mukhopadhyay A, Aggarwal BB. Journal of immunology. 2000 June.
  2. Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of resveratrol in healthy smokers a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial. Bo S, Ciccone G, Castiglione A, Gambino R, De Michieli F, Villois P, Durazzo M, Cavallo-Perin P, Cassader M. urrent Medicinal Chemistry. 2013.
  3. Anti-inflammatory effects of resveratrol, curcumin and simvastatin in acute small intestinal inflammation. Bereswill S, Muñoz M, Fischer A, Plickert R, Haag LM, Otto B, Kühl AA, Loddenkemper C, Göbel UB, Heimesaat MM. PloS One. 2010 Dec.   
  4. The inhibitory effect of resveratrol on leptin secretion from rat adipocytes. Szkudelska K, Nogowski L, Szkudelski T. European journal of clinical investigation. 2009 Oct.
  5. Resveratrol as an anti-inflammatory and anti-aging agent: mechanisms and clinical implications. de la Lastra CA, Villegas I. Molecular nutrition and food research. 2005 May.
  6. Effects of resveratrol on memory performance, hippocampal functional connectivity, and glucose metabolism in healthy older adults. Witte AV, Kerti L, Margulies DS, Flöel A. Journal of neuroscience. 2014 June.
  7. Effects of Resveratrol on the Recovery of Muscle Mass Following Disuse in the Plantaris Muscle of Aged Rats. Brian T. Bennett, Junaith S. Mohamed, Stephen E. Alway. PLOS One. 2013 Dec.

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