Resveratrol is a polyphenol most commonly found in red wine and grapes. It is also found in peanuts and certain berries[i]. The amount of resveratrol found in a glass of red wine has been estimated to be around 4.77 mg, though the actual amount of resveratrol contained in red wine varies greatly [ii]. Much of the research on resveratrol has been done in animals and test tubes using high amounts of the compound. Resveratrol plays an important role in the plant’s natural defense system against injury, infection, and disease. Researchers became interested in exploring the health benefits of resveratrol after they observed the surprisingly low rates of heart disease found in populations that consume a diet high in saturated fat and red wine [iii] [iv]. In studies resveratrol was found to extend the life span of yeast cells by as much as 70%, and it is suspected to have a similar effect on human cells [v].
Metabolic Health, Cholesterol and Diabetes:
In a study published in the journal Cell, researchers in France found that resveratrol protects mice against diet-induced insulin resistance and obesity, seen in diabetes[x]. These benefits include increasing insulin sensitivity and preventing complications from diabetes [xi]. One possible explanation for the diabetes benefits from resveratrol is that it may stop a certain enzyme from turning glucose into sorbitol, a sugar alcohol. When too much sorbitol builds up in people with diabetes, it may create cell-damaging oxidative stress [xii].
Resveratrol has also been seen to benefit cholesterol panels, increasing the type of cholesterol which is generally seen as beneficial (High Density Lipoprotein), and reducing the “bad” type LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein). Resveratrol seems to influence cholesterol levels by reducing the effect of an enzyme that controls cholesterol production. As an antioxidant, it also may decrease the oxidation of “bad” LDL cholesterol. LDL oxidation contributes to plaque buildup in artery walls resulting in the deterioration of cardiovascular health[xiii].
Cardiovascular Health and Blood Pressure:
A 2015 review concluded that high supplemental doses may help reduce the pressure exerted on artery walls when the heart beats. It is thought this is due to resveratrol helping to produce more nitric oxide, which causes blood vessels to relax [xiv] [xv]. However, researchers say more evidence is needed before specific recommendations can be made about the best dose of resveratrol to maximise benefits [xvi].
The brain health protecting benefits of resveratrol may partly be due to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. Resveratrol appears to interfere with protein fragments called beta- amyloids. These are the proteins which form the plaques that determine Alzheimer’s disease. The antioxidant activity also prevents brain cell damage via preventing oxidative stress [xvii].
Resveratrol has been researched in test tube studies for its potential anti-cancer properties [xviii]. Resveratrol may combat cancer cells via several actions; such as changing the gene expression in cancer cells to inhibit growth [xix]. However, despite growing evidence in terms of test tube studies, more research is needed to see how this compound may be applied for human cancer therapy.
Anticoagulant and Anti-platelet Medication: Resveratrol might slow blood clotting. Taking resveratrol along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.
Medications which interact with Cytochrome P450 3A4/ CYP3A4: Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver, taking resveratrol many alter this metabolism process. Please ask your prescribing doctor for more information.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Resveratrol is likely safe when used in amounts found in some foods. However, during pregnancy and breast-feeding, the source of resveratrol is important. Resveratrol is found in grape skins, grape juice, wine, and other food sources.
Children: It is common to consume resveratrol in small amounts from foods. However reliable information is lacking to ascertain if it safe to take by mouth in larger amounts, as in supplemental doses.
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