Table of Contents
- What is Resveratrol?
- The Health Benefits of Resveratrol
- Additional Benefits
- Resveratrol Dosage
If you think just drinking a little red wine every day is giving you all the health benefits you can get from its key compound, resveratrol, then you should think again.
This unique polyphenol, which is found in red wine but also in other sources, has amazing health benefits.
It can even help you look and feel younger.
However, getting the right amount and combination of this phytochemical is not as simple as you probably thought.
We will discuss how resveratrol can help improve your health, and how to get it.
What is Resveratrol?
A phenomenon known as the French paradox came to light back in the 1990s.
The French people consume large quantities of red wine and saturated fats, and yet, as a nation, they have very low rates of heart disease.
The French love of butter would seem to lead to more heart problems, but it turns out that a small polyphenol found in red wine, known as resveratrol, may be the key to this lowered risk for cardiac disease.
Grapes produce this polyphenol to protect themselves against ultraviolet radiation, stress, fungal infections, and injury.
However, resveratrol can also be found in soy, peanuts, pistachios and some types of berries (1).
Researchers have identified some of the many protective properties of resveratrol.
It is known to fight inflammation, cancer, and the aging process.
It is a natural antioxidant that also has phytoestrogen properties.
This polyphenol has the potential to improve many chronic diseases, as well as increase longevity.
Therefore, researchers are continuing to explore its effects, to learn more about this amazing compound (2).
The section below discusses the many health benefits of resveratrol, including how it can protect your heart and brain over time.
We also explore the drawbacks to this compound, which includes its poor bioavailability and its interactions with other drugs and supplements.
If you are interested in taking resveratrol to improve your health, we provide the essential information to help you make an informed choice.
The Health Benefits of Resveratrol
Resveratrol has been studied extensively in animal trials to determine its potential benefits.
One of the drawbacks of this polyphenol is that is breaks down quickly, once it enters the blood.
This makes it difficult to study its long-term effects.
We will discuss the potential benefits of this natural compound for improving your health and helping you live longer.
The Antioxidant Benefits
Not only is resveratrol an antioxidant itself, but it also enhances your body’s ability to produce antioxidant enzymes.
It can activate pathways and genetic codes that allow antioxidants to work more effectively.
Antioxidants are natural substances that can prevent or slow down the damage down to your cells by free radicals.
Free radicals are waste substances that are produced by your cells when they process food or react to environmental stimulus.
When your body is unable to process or remove these free radicals efficiently, the result can be oxidative stress, which harms the functioning of your cells.
While your body makes some of its own antioxidants, you can also get more from the foods you eat.
Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant that can help reduce oxidative stress, which is the cause of many diseases, including heart disease and diabetes.
In both cellular and animal studies, resveratrol was shown to increase important antioxidant enzymes.
In one study, researchers found that resveratrol contained crucial components of the detoxification and antioxidant defense mechanisms, while also reducing free radicals and inflammatory substances in the body (3).
This same study noted that resveratrol protected cells from oxidative damage.
In other research, resveratrol was found to enable the breakdown of the hem found in hemoglobin into iron and antioxidants (4).
A comprehensive review of the literature on this polyphenol shows that it contains sirtuins and SIRT enzymes, which help control the aging process and protect various proteins in the body from age-related stress (5).
The Heart Benefits
Resveratrol has been shown to supply possible protective benefits for the heart, especially for people who are at elevated risk for heart disease.
This happens because resveratrol can help reduce the formation of arterial plaques, which are the leading cause of heart disease.
The antioxidants in resveratrol lower lipid levels, reduce the inflammatory response and prevent the grouping of platelets that lead to plaque formation.
This keeps your heart healthier and stronger (6).
One theory of how this happens, based on gene research, is that resveratrol enables the expression of a specific gene (PON1), which reduces inflammation in the body and helps you to detoxify your blood (7).
The alcohol in wine could reduce these beneficial effects, particularly if you already have high blood pressure.
A metanalysis on the effects of resveratrol concluded that drinking one to two glasses of red wine per day could significantly reduce your risk of developing heart disease (10).
This effect is most prominent in healthier, younger people who drink small to moderate amounts daily.
It is important to note that other types of alcohol do not have the same effects (11).
The Anti-Inflammatory Benefits
While the antioxidant benefits of this polyphenol have indirect influences on the inflammatory process, resveratrol also specifically influences inflammation in the body.
Resveratrol has been shown to effectively block COX inflammatory enzymes in much the same way as anti-inflammatory medications, like NSAIDs (12).
In addition, this polyphenol has been shown in animal and cellular research studies to block specific pathways that are known triggers for the inflammatory response (13).
Resveratrol has also been shown to stop the production of certain proteins by your immune cells.
These proteins cause inflammation and result in certain autoimmune disorders (14).
This is good news for sufferers of chronic inflammatory conditions that result from the presence of these enzymes (15).
The Anti-Aging Effects
Resveratrol has been documented to positively affect many age-related disease mechanisms within the body, making it a powerful anti-aging compound.
The first way that resveratrol influences the aging process is by increasing autophagy induction.
Autophagy is your body’s normal “recycling” process, during which damaged and aging cells are broken down and new, healthy cells are made.
When the autophagy process becomes impaired, you are more likely to age faster and suffer from conditions resulting from damaged cell tissues.
Resveratrol increases this recycling process, allowing your cells to rejuvenate and stay healthy.
It does this in much the same way that caloric restriction works.
However, since that method is not often safe for everyone to use, increasing your intake of resveratrol may have similar effects (16).
As your cells age, they function less efficiently, become less resilient to stress, and begin producing inflammatory compounds that are then released into the body.
As more of your cells reach this aged state and release these compounds, your body is more likely to feel the effects of this increased inflammatory response.
Certain enzymes can turn off this process.
Resveratrol has been shown to trigger these enzymes, hindering the aging process at the cellular level (17).
The Neural Benefits
Another significant health benefit of resveratrol is for your brain.
This polyphenol has been shown to have several neuroprotective effects on brain cells, neurotransmitters, and overall brain function.
A few of those benefits are listed below:
- Resveratrol increases the uptake of glutamate, which means your brain is better protected from degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, as well as from stroke (18).
- Those suffering from dementia may enjoy improved cognition and less degeneration when taking supplemental resveratrol (19).
- Resveratrol may protect the brain from other forms of damage, by increasing antioxidant-gene activity, especially when taken with melatonin (20).
- This compound protects the hippocampus, which means you can enjoy improved cognition and memory (21).
- This compound may help your brain maintain its energy balance, especially under stressful conditions (22).
In addition to affecting brain tissue and function, resveratrol can also influence neurotransmitter function in the brain, improving your mood and overall mental health.
It works as described below:
- Resveratrol has been shown to increase the concentration of serotonin activity, which is responsible for elevating mood (23).
- This polyphenol also blocks certain enzymes that break down mood-altering neurotransmitters, like dopamine and serotonin. This allows you to have more positive effects from these “feel good” chemicals (24).
- By controlling the activity of the MAOA and MAOB enzymes, resveratrol can play an important role in protecting against diseases like dementia and Parkinson’s (25).
Benefits to Your Gut
The microflorae that live in your digestive tract, not only aid in your digestion of food but also play a crucial role in your immunity, heart health, and brain function.
When your gut microbiome is out of balance, they can contain elevated levels of harmful bacteria that release oxidative substances into your system and harm your blood vessels and arteries.
Resveratrol has a positive effect on your gut microflora, increasing the beneficial bacteria which keep this effect under control (26).
Benefits to Blood Glucose Levels
Diabetes is a leading cause of disease and chronic illness in the U.S.
The incidence of this disorder is growing.
Resveratrol may be able to help some patients suffering from certain types of diabetes.
In clinical trials, this compound was shown to increase insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels in just one month (27).
Resveratrol can do this by raising levels of SIRT1 and PGC-1a.
Resveratrol has a positive effect on the pancreas, protecting the cells which produce insulin (29).
Assistance with Weight Control
In cellular research studies, resveratrol was shown to trigger the death of fat cells, as well as positively influence genes that are responsible for weight gain and caloric energy use (30).
This compound may also help you lose more weight, by inhibiting the production of enzymes responsible for fat production, including hormone-sensitive lipase, lipoprotein lipase and fatty acid synthase (31).
Benefits for Your Immune System
Resveratrol can have a positive influence on your ability to fight infections, as well as reduce your autoimmune response to certain pathogens and conditions.
The first major benefit to your immunity comes from resveratrol’s ability to help fight bacterial infections.
By working in synergy with other flavonoids, resveratrol can enhance the ability of antibiotics to kill bacteria, including drug-resistant strains like MRSA (32).
For those living with gastric ulcers, resveratrol can help fight certain bacteria known to cause these sores (33).
When applied to the skin, this polyphenol can also effectively combat acne-causing bacteria (34).
Resveratrol even makes it easier to fight certain sexually transmitted infections (35).
In addition to fighting bacteria, resveratrol also helps to boost your body’s ability to fight viral infections.
Among the viruses known to be susceptible to the powers of this polyphenol are the two strains of the herpes simplex virus responsible for oral and genital herpes, as well as the virus that causes mononucleosis (36).
This polyphenol can even help to kill Candida albicans, a persistent and troublesome yeast that causes many health problems (43).
Possible Cancer Protection
Researchers are exploring the possibility that, because it is a phytoestrogen, resveratrol could be helpful in fighting breast cancer.
Certain types of breast cancer are made worse by high levels of estrogen.
This polyphenol has been shown to block the enzyme responsible for estrogen production (46).
These early results come from animal trials, so human studies are still needed to confirm this effect.
Benefits for Hormonal Health
Both males and females could benefit from the hormone-balancing influence of resveratrol.
Men could enjoy increased levels of testosterone, as well as higher sperm counts.
Women could enjoy a better metabolism of estrogen, which lowers their risk of developing breast cancer (47).
Women, especially those in menopause, make also experience more balanced hormone levels when taking resveratrol (48).
As a natural anti-inflammatory, resveratrol can help to reduce the pain that is often associated with this immune system response.
This compound has been shown to reduce the brain’s sensitivity to pain, by blocking inflammatory enzymes (49).
Resveratrol has even been found to be effective at helping with pain that is otherwise difficult to treat (50).
Creams and topical treatments containing resveratrol are becoming increasingly available and represent a treatment option for many with chronic inflammation and pain.
Clinical research offers other promising effects of resveratrol on the body.
The preliminary results on these influences have not been thoroughly tested on humans and are awaiting further confirmation.
However, these limited results mean that we can hope to understand more about this polyphenol, as researchers learn more.
Here are some of the many added benefits that are being discovered by scientists.
- Resveratrol may improve your bone health, by activating specific pathways in stem cells. This results in more bone-building cell growth (51). This polyphenol also protects your bones and enhances mineralization, by synergizing with Vitamins D and K2 (52).
- In animal trials, resveratrol was shown to improve bile flow and protect against certain types of liver disease. This compound has been shown to prevent liver damage due to sepsis, an infection that causes blood poisoning and can result in severe liver damage (53, 54).
- For those undergoing radiation therapy, resveratrol given in high doses may be able to protect against some of the effects of this treatment. Resveratrol can help to reduce the decline of both white blood cells and bone marrow during radiation, which helps patients to retain immune system function while battling cancer and other diseases (55).
- In animal trials, resveratrol has prevented hearing loss due to damaging noises, by neutralizing the free radicals caused by such noises (56). Hearing damage caused by other sources, like certain chemotherapy drugs, has also shown improvement with treatment using resveratrol (57).
- Those with acne-prone skin may find relief with resveratrol. Resveratrol gel can significantly reduce acne breakouts, as well as improve skin health and overall appearance (58).
- If you want to get the most from your Vitamin D, then resveratrol can help. This polyphenol enhances your sensitivity to Vitamin D, by activating receptors in your body (59).
- Resveratrol could be helpful in increasing muscle mass, most likely through changes, it can trigger at the cellular level to increase fat- and sugar-burning processes (60).
You can get various amounts of resveratrol from dietary sources, or you can choose to take a supplement to enhance your intake of this polyphenol.
Clinical trials using humans taking resveratrol are limited, so knowing how much supplemental resveratrol to take can be difficult.
If you want to increase your dietary sources of resveratrol, your best options include (61):
- Red wine (about 2 mg per liter on average)
- Itadori tea, made from Japanese Knotweed
- Dark chocolate
- Berries, especially cranberries and grapes
Supplemental resveratrol is also widely available.
Most supplements contain between 50 and 500 milligrams of resveratrol.
By extrapolating from animal trials, a low- to average-dose of this supplement would be 5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight or around 350 mg per day for someone weighing 150-pounds (62).
For high-dose therapy, though, you could increase this to around two grams per day (63).
Even in clinical trials using very high doses of up to five grams per day, patients did not experience any serious or long-lasting side effects (64).
Resveratrol is available in many forms, including capsules, liquids, and tablets.
This polyphenol can also be found in creams, serums, and gels for topical use.
It is also frequently combined with other antioxidants and compounds for the purposes of pain relief or skin care.
When considering how much of a supplement to take, it is essential to understand the bioavailability of this particular substance.
Bioavailability is the proportion of a substance that enters your bloodstream once taken.
It is, therefore, available to actively influence the body.
While your body readily absorbs resveratrol, its bioavailability is low.
When you take supplemental resveratrol, most if it binds to various proteins in your blood and liver enzymes (65).
It is unknown if the body can store resveratrol in tissues.
There are certain conditions and medications which may not respond well to taking supplemental resveratrol.
Those with anemia should be cautious since this compound could reduce your ability to absorb iron.
If you are taking medications, resveratrol can affect how these are broken down in your digestive system and liver.
You should talk with your doctor before taking supplemental resveratrol, if you are currently taking statins, drugs for hypertension, medications for cardiac arrhythmia, antidepressants, or immunosuppressants.
You should be cautious about taking resveratrol if you regularly take antihistamines, NSAIDs, herbal supplements, antifungals, sedatives, antivirals, or medication for erectile dysfunction.
Resveratrol can reduce your ability to form blood clots, so use caution if you already take blood-thinning medication or are having surgery.
There are many protective benefits of taking resveratrol for your health.
Not only does this phytochemical protect your heart and brain, but it can even help prevent chronic and even life-threatening diseases.
While we still have much to learn about the effects of this polyphenol on the human body, early clinical trials, and cellular research have shown promising results.
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