Resveratrol to the Rescue

Written By:
WholeFoods Magazine Staff
View more articles in:
share

Plentiful on market shelves and sometimes fermented for decades, wine is enjoyed by millions of aficionados across the globe. Whether savored at meal time or just to relax and unwind, a component in wine—resveratrol—is said to offer health benefits. To fully access the benefits of this important nutrient without the detrimental effects of consuming too much alcohol, nutrition stores stock concentrated resveratrol supplements that support heart, circulatory, cellular, bone health and more (1, 2).

The Resveratrol Effect
What exactly is resveratrol? Resveratrol (3,4’,5-trihydroxystilbene) is a polyphenolic compound (stilbenes) found in trans- and cis- forms. Some feel that the trans-resveratrol form is the best for absorption when taken orally (1). Both forms occur naturally as glucosides, meaning that they are bound to glucose molecules. Supplement makers extract resveratrol from two main places: red grapes and/or Polygonum cuspidatum (Japanese Knotweed). It’s also present in peanuts and various berries, though not in quantities as large as that found in supplements.

Wine, of course, has helped raise the public profile of resveratrol thanks to the “French Paradox,” the notion that the French enjoy diets loaded with fat, but have lower incidences of heart disease compared to Americans. Since the French regularly drink red wine at meal time, some attribute their good heart health to resveratrol’s cardioprotective benefits.

As a matter of fact, studies suggest that those who consumed grape juice enriched with resveratrol reduced their chances of developing atherosclerosis (i.e., hardening of the arteries) (3). And, thrombosis, a major contributor to atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease (CHD), may be thwarted from drinking red wine because it represses the tissue factor (TF) in the wall of the arteries, researchers claim (3). The bottom line is that research suggests resveratrol could be linked to a reduced risk of inflammation and blood clotting, reduced bad cholesterol and less chance of vascular damage, which could be helpful for those looking to support heart health (4).

Other research points to resveratrol’s use for those who are obese. One study found that when human fat cells came in contact with this nutrient, a 16–36% reduction was seen in the cytokine expression (5). What does this all mean? Well, resveratrol helped induce an anti-inflammatory effect, which may be especially beneficial to those with obesity that suffer from weight-related ailments (5).  A study on small animals also showed that “resveratrol produces changes associated with longer lifespan, including increased insulin sensitivity, reduced insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-I) levels, increased AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-g coactivator 1a (PGC-1a) activity, increased mitochondrial number and improved motor function” (6).

As individuals age and pack-on extra pounds, they may become resistant to insulin’s action, which means that tissues and muscles do not burn glucose in the normal manner as they once did (7). Known as insulin resistance, and associated with impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), this condition is the precursor to type-2 diabetes. But, those with insulin resistance may feel more comfortable knowing that resveratrol can help boost the action of insulin (7).

Two studies on obese individuals were completed at Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University in New York City to gauge whether resveratrol improved insulin resistance brought on by aging.  Ten individuals with IGT were given resveratrol supplements and saw an improvement in insulin sensitivity, with lower post-meal levels of blood glucose. The lead researcher, Jill Crandall, M.D., stated, “People in the two studies took supplements containing resveratrol at concentrations much higher than are found in food or even several bottles of wine” (7).

Some researchers also believe one’s chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia, may be reduced by taking resveratrol. A study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry suggests that resveratrol may lower levels of amyloid-beta peptides, markers of Alzehimer’s disease. Philippe Marambaud and his team at the Litwin-Zucker Research Center for the Study of Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders in Manhassett, NY, administered resveratrol to cells that produce human amyloid-beta peptides. The trial showed that levels of amyloid-beta in resveratrol-treated cells were drastically lower than those that were untreated (8).

In addition to the aforementioned, resveratrol may have another function: promoting longevity (2). According to one resveratrol supplement manufacturer, “trans-resveratrol has been proven in studies to activate the SIRT1 longevity gene and enhance cellular productivity” (2).

Clearly, resveratrol has a lot of offer for one’s health. Talk to your local vitamin store for more information about how this supplement can fit into your daily nutrition regimen. WF

References
1. Linus Pauling Institute, http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/phytochemicals/resveratrol/, accessed March 9, 2011.
2. Reserveage Organics, “What Is Resveratrol? What Is trans-Resveratrol?” www.reserveage.com/what-is-resveratrol-what-is-trans-resveratrol-pg-41.html, accessed April 1, 2011.
3. American Heart Association. Artherioscler. Thromb. Vasc. Biol. 1999; 19; 419-426.
4. Mayo Clinic, “Red Wine and Resveratrol: Good for Your Heart?” www.mayoclinic.com/health/red-wine/HB00089, accessed April 1, 2011.
5.  J. Olholm, et al., “Anti-Inflammatory Effect of Resveratrol on Adipokine Expression and Secretion in Human Adipose Tissue Explants,” Int. J. Obesity 34, 1546–1553 (2010).
6. J.A. Bauer, et al., “Resveratrol improves health and survival of mice on a high-calorie diet,” Nature, 444, 337–342 (2006).
7. T. Saey, “Resveratrol Shows Activity against Insulin Resistance and Retinal Disease,” www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/60605/title/Resveratrol_shows_activity_
against_insulin_resistance_and_retinal_disease
, accessed March 9, 2011.
8. American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. “Compound In Wine Reduces Levels Of Alzheimer's Disease-causing Peptides,” press release distributed Nov. 4, 2005, www.sciencedaily.com­/releases/2005/11/051104085054.htm,  accessed March 10, 2011.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, August 2011