Within the last decade, resveratrol—a polyphenol found in red wine—has stormed into the nutritional supplement arena with a reception befitting a superstar. While I was originally a bit skeptical of the benefits of resveratrol given one falsified study, I’ve kept my eye on it and I’m firmly convinced it’s the key to better heart health and longevity.
So, what is resveratrol and what are the benefits of resveratrol?
Resveratrol is a plant compound that acts like an antioxidant. The top food sources include red wine, grapes, some berries and peanuts.
This compound tends to be concentrated mostly in the skins and seeds of grapes and berries. These parts of the grape are included in the fermentation of red wine, hence its particularly high concentration of resveratrol.
However, much of the research on resveratrol has been done in animals and test tubes using high amounts of the compound.
Of the limited research in humans, most has focused on supplemental forms of the compound, in concentrations higher than those you could get through food.
Health Benefits of Resveratrol Studied
In an Australian study of overweight hypertensive men and post-menopausal women, researchers monitored resveratrol’s effect on the brachial artery, the major artery of the upper arm. Impaired blood flow in this vessel is linked to risk factors such as obesity and hypertension. After consuming of a highly bioactive form of resveratrol, participants demonstrated a significant and rapid increase of blood flow within the hour.
Resveratrol works its heart-support “magic” in two ways. First off, it protects the endothelium, the delicate inner layer of your arteries, from oxidative free radical damage. Second, resveratrol helps to protect the production of nitric oxide, the critical chemical produced by the endothelium that keeps blood vessels optimally dilated.
But heart health is just a tip of the iceberg. There have now been more than 4,400 studies on the benefits of resveratrol to date, showing that it helps to protect your entire body.
The Health Benefits of Resveratrol
1. Resveratrol Supplements May Help Lower Blood Pressure
Because of its antioxidant properties, resveratrol could be a promising supplement for lowering blood pressure.
2. It Has a Positive Effect on Blood Fats
Several studies in animals have suggested that resveratrol supplements may change blood fats in a healthy way.
3. It Lengthens Lifespan in Certain Animals
The compound's ability to extend lifespan in different organisms has become a major area of research.
4. It Protects the Brain
Several studies have suggested that drinking red wine can help slow down age-related cognitive decline.
5. It May Increase Insulin Sensitivity
Resveratrol has been shown to have several benefits for diabetes, at least in animal studies.
6. It May Ease Joint Pain
Arthritis is a common affliction that leads to joint pain and loss of mobility.
7. Resveratrol May Suppress Cancer Cells
Resveratrol has been studied, especially in test tubes, for its ability to prevent and treat cancer. However, results have been mixed.
Here's how resveratrol may combat cancer cells:
It may inhibit cancer cell growth: It may prevent cancer cells from replicating and spreading.
Resveratrol may change gene expression: It can change the gene expression in cancer cells to inhibit their growth.
It can have hormonal effects: Resveratrol may interfere with the way certain hormones are expressed, which may keep hormone-dependent cancers from spreading.
However, since the studies so far have been carried out in test tubes and animals, much more research is needed to see if and how this compound might be used for human cancer therapy.
Risks and Concerns Regarding Resveratrol Supplements
No major risks have been revealed in studies that have used resveratrol supplements. Healthy people seem to tolerate them well.
However, it should be noted that there aren't enough conclusive recommendations about how much resveratrol a person should take in order to get health benefits.
And there are some cautions, especially regarding how resveratrol could interact with other medications.
Since high doses have been shown to stop blood from clotting in test tubes, it's possible it could increase bleeding or bruising when taken with anti-clotting drugs, such as heparin or warfarin, or some pain relievers.
Resveratrol also blocks some enzymes that help clear certain compounds from the body. That means some medications could build up to unsafe levels. These include certain blood pressure medications, anxiety meds and immunosuppressants.
If you currently use medications, then you may want to check with a doctor before trying resveratrol.
Lastly, it's widely debated how much resveratrol the body can actually use from supplements and other sources.
However, researchers are studying ways of making resveratrol easier for the body to use.
The Bottom Line
Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant with great potential.
It's shown promise regarding a variety of health conditions, including heart disease and arthritis. However, clear dosage guidance is still lacking.
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