What is Resveratrol?
Resveratrol is an extremely potent antioxidant (part of the family called polyphenols) found in certain fruits and vegetables. In nature, the highest concentration is found in grapes.
Many researchers believe that Resveratrol is primarily responsible for what's called "The French Paradox": the observation that the people of France, in general, enjoy good cardiovascular health even though their diet is high in fat.
A large number of in vitro and in vivo studies have shown that Resveratrol may increase the lifespan in human cells, reduce oxidative stress damage to the cardiovascular system by neutralizing free radicals, and help support the body's natural defenses.
Although human trials are in their infancy the wide body of research to date suggests that Resveratrol may:
- Protect cells from free radical damage
- Inhibit the spread of cancer, especially prostate cancer
- Lower blood pressure
- Keep the heart healthy and improve elasticity in blood vessels
- Normalize the body’s anti-inflammatory response
- Slow down the signs of aging and help prevent Alzheimer’s disease
Cancer: Recent studies indicate that Resveratrol may have a role in cancer prevention, preventing cells from dividing, growing and spreading.
Inflammation: Resveratrol may have an anti-inflammatory effect. Inflammation lies at the core of virtually every known age-related condition, from heart disease to arthritis.
High blood pressure: Japanese scientists discovered that Resveratrol prevents the body from producing angiotensin, the hormone that causes blood vessels to narrow.
Note: It is important to stress that not all studies have been completely positive and that the vast amount of research to date has been at the cellular level or with animals. But the results have been so encouraging that more than a dozen human trials are now under way in the U.S. alone
Resveratrol first captured the attention of the world's scientific community (and the general public!) in 2003 when experiments conducted by Dr. David Sinclair at Harvard appeared in the prestigious journal, Nature. Sinclair's pioneering research demonstrated the life extending benefits of Resveratrol in mice, the first experiments performed on mammals.
But the story really dates back to the 1930s when scientists at Cornell University discovered the life-extending effects of calorie restriction, or CR. In animal tests they found that cutting calorie intake by about a third extended life span by 30 percent or more. The animals on the diet remained healthier, longer. It is believed that calorie restriction has the same effect on the human body.
Studies suggest that Resveratrol mimics the effect of calorie restriction. It is suggested that Resveratrol switches on the genes known as sirtuins that the body uses to extend life under conditions of stress—like starvation. (Sirtuins stands for "silent information regulator proteins").
The first "longevity" study sowed that Resveratrol boosted the life span of yeast cells by 70 percent. Scientists next demonstrated the same effect in roundworms and fruit flies. Then Italian researchers in Pisa went on to increase life span more than 50 percent in a species of short-lived fish.
Two studies with mice continued the track record of success. In one, conducted by Sinclair's group and the National Institute on Aging, high doses of Resveratrol induced a number of CR-like effects including significantly extending the life spans of mice on fattening diets while warding off diabetes and the ill effects of overeating.
Sinclair's group fed one group of mice a high-fat diet—60 percent of the calories came from fat. Unsurprisingly, the mice soon developed signs of impending diabetes, with grossly enlarged livers, and started to die much sooner than mice fed a standard diet. Another group of mice was fed the same diet but with the addition of a large daily dose of Resveratrol. Result: the mice still got fat but they didn't get high levels of glucose and insulin in the bloodstream—the warning signs of diabetes—and their livers remained normal size. But, of even greater significance—the Resveratrol mice lived an average of 15 percent longer.
Overweight mice supplemented with Resveratrol performed better on a motor skills test—walking along a rotating rod. As they grew older they were able to stay on the rod just as long as normal-size mice.
In the second study, at the Institute of Genetics and Molecular and Cell Biology in France, two mice were fed a high-fat diet for 15 weeks. One was also given Resveratrol. And in a treadmill test that mouse ran twice as far as the one 'deprived' of Resveratrol.
A review published in the September, 2009 issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research summarizes the health-promoting effects of Resveratrol.
University of Queensland School of Biomedical Sciences associate professor Lindsay Brown and colleagues conclude that Resveratrol may help protect against a wide array of diseases and conditions: "The breadth of benefits is remarkable—cancer prevention, protection of the heart and brain from damage, reducing age-related diseases such as inflammation, reversing diabetes and obesity, and many more."
Dr. Brown stated, "It has long been a question as to how such a simple compound could have these effects but now the puzzle is becoming clearer with the discovery of the pathways, especially the sirtuins, a family of enzymes that regulate the production of cellular components by the nucleus."
THE RIGHT KIND OF RESVERATROL
There are two different kinds of Resveratrol—"cis" and "trans" Resveratrol. Studies show that the Trans form is the key health-promoting ingredient. The best kind is natural, but, of course, you would need to drink an excessive amount of wine a day to achieve that. Natural extracts, processed and stored in cold conditions and away from light are necessary so that the "Trans" form does not turn into "cis." Trans-resveratrol is more biologically active and beneficial and is the form that has been the subject of the vast majority of research.