If you follow health stories in the news, you’ve probably heard of resveratrol, a compound in red wine. Resveratrol has gotten a lot of press over the last few decades because of its beneficial effects.
Resveratrol has been touted as a treatment or cure for everything from heart disease to cancer. Some even say it can increase your life expectancy!
How do you know what’s the truth… and what’s hype?
Let’s break down the facts about resveratrol and its health benefits. We’ll tell you what the science says about resveratrol and your health, and we’ll let you know how you can increase your dietary intake of resveratrol.
Plus, we’ll talk about what to do if you don’t drink alcohol but still want to get plenty of this handy compound.
What is resveratrol?
Resveratrol is a plant compound called a stilbenoid that acts as an antioxidant when you consume it. It’s found most richly in the skins of berries, grapes, and peanuts.
When they looked deeper, researchers found that there’s a lot of resveratrol in red wine, which has many valuable properties.
Resveratrol (3,5,4′-trihydroxy-trans-stilbene) belongs to a class of phytochemicals called polyphenols. They come from plants and are one reason why darkly colored fruits and berries are so good for you.
Resveratrol is also classified as a phytoalexin. Phytoalexins are compounds that plants produce to combat pathogens such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses. When plants sense an infection, they make more phytoalexins to combat the microbial invaders.
Resveratrol vs. Oxidative Stress
In the body, polyphenols like resveratrol work to combat oxidative stress, which happens when free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) overwhelm the antioxidants in a cell. If oxidation continues unchecked, it can cause significant damage in the cell, including DNA damage.
Polyphenols work by neutralizing free radicals. They bind to molecules that cause oxidative stress and keep them from doing damage inside the cell. It works similarly to vitamin E, although vitamin E isn’t technically a polyphenol.
Most of our bodies are fighting a lot of oxidative stress. Environmental factors like eating a poor diet (full of sugar, refined carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats), exposure to pollution and toxins, and tobacco use can cause oxidation in your cells.
To fight oxidative stress from the environment, it helps to eat a healthy diet with antioxidant-rich compounds like polyphenols. These molecules can help protect your cells and body from the damage caused by your environment. Resveratrol can even prevent cell death (apoptosis).
Is it the wine, or the compound?
Not everyone agrees that resveratrol gives red wine its fantastic health benefits.
Resveratrol in Food vs. Supplements
Many studies that tout the amazing benefits of resveratrol used very high doses of a supplement, often from the Japanese knotweed plant, Polygonum cuspidatum.
Some resveratrol in supplements is synthetic. Its structure is the same, but it’s not plant-derived.
When you take a megadose of a supplement, you’re probably going to experience some side effects. The main side effects of taking resveratrol supplements fall under digestive upset — primarily nausea, vomiting, and occasionally diarrhea.
Where Can I Get Resveratrol?
Now that you know why resveratrol is such a potent molecule, you’re probably wondering where you can get more of it.
It’s actually quite easy to add foods and drinks that have large amounts of resveratrol to your diet. (Good news, pregnant ladies: it’s not just in wine!)
Foods that have high levels of resveratrol include:
- Red grapes (especially grape skins)
- Red wine or blush wine (like Surely Sparkling Rosé)
- Dark chocolate
The skins of dark red and blue fruits like red grapes and berries listed above are some of the best sources of resveratrol. (Try them in a smoothie!) Red wine is rich in resveratrol because there is a lot of resveratrol in grape skins. Vintners use grape skins to give red and blush wines their color.
What are the benefits of using resveratrol?
1. Weight Loss
Resveratrol has shown promising effects for weight loss.
Clinical studies have shown that taking a resveratrol supplement can help obese patients lose fat and lower their BMI. Participants also gained lean muscle mass, which may be why resveratrol can also increase resting metabolic rate.
A high BMI and obesity are linked to adverse health events like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and dementia, just to name a few. If you have a high BMI, anything that helps you lower it, like resveratrol, will have a significant impact on your overall health.
2. Protects Against Heart Disease
One of the best-known benefits of resveratrol is its positive effect on managing cholesterol. Taking a resveratrol supplement lowers “bad” cholesterol (LDL, low-density lipoprotein). Clinical trials have also shown that resveratrol reduces total cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
(Improved cholesterol profiles are also a benefit of giving up drinking.)
When your cholesterol is high, fatty plaques build up in your blood vessels, restricting blood flow and potentially causing blood clots. That’s why high levels of triglycerides, LDL, and total cholesterol are linked to coronary heart disease and stroke.
Resveratrol can also help stop the formation of plaques in blood vessels because it affects platelets, the cells in the blood that cause clotting. Resveratrol keeps the platelets from sticking together, reducing the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular issues.
3. Lowers Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. High blood pressure can cause the walls of the arteries to thicken. Uncontrolled hypertension can lead to heart attacks, heart failure, and even aneurysms.
Studies have shown that resveratrol treatment lowers overall blood pressure in animal studies and systolic blood pressure in humans. Scientists don’t know the exact mechanism behind these effects, but they think it’s probably mediated by nitric oxide, a vasodilator.
4. Improves Insulin Sensitivity
Resveratrol can also help improve insulin sensitivity in patients with type 2 diabetes.
The cells of type 2 diabetics are insulin resistant, meaning they don’t respond well to insulin, a hormone that signals cells to take up glucose (sugar) from the blood.
When cells aren’t sensitive to insulin, they leave too much glucose in the blood. Over time, the extra glucose can damage pretty much every major organ system in your body. That’s why uncontrolled type 2 diabetes is so dangerous, especially if you eat and drink lots of sugar.
Studies have shown that resveratrol supplements can help lower A1C, a measure of diabetes severity. Higher A1C numbers mean your blood sugar or blood glucose levels aren’t under control. Therefore, resveratrol seems to help regulate blood glucose in diabetics.
Resveratrol and its metabolites also have positive effects on insulin resistance. Giving type 2 diabetics a resveratrol supplement reduces insulin resistance and increases insulin sensitivity, potentially because it lowers oxidative stress in the body.
Resveratrol may also help fight type 2 diabetes by maintaining and improving the function of mitochondria, the power generators of cells.
5. Anti-Cancer Properties
Resveratrol has received a lot of hype as a cancer-fighting supplement. Use of resveratrol has been used to both prevent and treat many types of cancer, including breast cancer, prostate cancer, liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, blood cancer, and more.
Scientists think resveratrol works on cancer cells in several different ways:
- It can prevent some tumors from forming
- Resveratrol can inhibit cell proliferation, which keeps tumors from growing
- It can keep some tumors from metastasizing and moving throughout the body
For example, resveratrol acts as an aromatase inhibitor, helping to stop the body from producing more estrogen. Drugs that are aromatase inhibitors are used to treat certain types of breast cancer that have estrogen receptors on their cells. Resveratrol could have similar effects.
Looking for more ways to reduce your risk of getting cancer? Consider giving up alcohol.
6. Improves Seasonal Allergy Symptoms
One unexpected benefit of resveratrol is that it can improve seasonal allergy symptoms. Resveratrol is particularly effective at improving nasal allergies when it’s used as a nasal spray.
In studies on mice, resveratrol decreased histamine and cytokines, 2 major players in the inflammatory allergic response. Mice in the trials given resveratrol also sneezed less frequently and didn’t rub their noses as often.
Resveratrol can also decrease the number of immune cells involved in the allergic response. Studies of mice showed that resveratrol supplementation reduced the numbers of mast cells, B cells, and dendritic cells, all key players in creating allergies and allergy symptoms.
7. Protects the Brain Against Aging
One interesting effect of drinking red wine is that it makes you less likely to develop dementia and cognitive decline. Resveratrol has a protective effect on the brain. It helps combat harmful oxidation in brain cells, and it helps reduce inflammation in the brain as well.
Inflammation in the brain can directly lead to many devastating neurological disorders, including:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease, and
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
One thing these neurodegenerative diseases all have in common is that inflammation causes brain cells to become misshapen and disrupt brain function. Therefore, any treatment that can fight inflammation in brain cells could effectively fight all of these neurological diseases.
Resveratrol is particularly exciting because it may help brain cells clear beta-amyloid plaques, one of the suggested causes of Alzheimer’s disease. There are so few effective treatments for Alzheimer’s, which makes these results truly exciting.
8. Arthritis Relief
Arthritis is another common condition that’s often caused by inflammation, making it a great target for resveratrol. Resveratrol seems to be effective for both major arthritis types: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Resveratrol injected directly into the joints can help protect the joint cartilage and stop osteoarthritis from getting worse. A lot of arthritis pain is caused by inflammation and the breakdown of cartilage, which resveratrol may be able to help.
Resveratrol also shows promise in treating rheumatoid arthritis. RA develops when the body’s immune system attacks the cells in and around the joints, causing pain and inflammation. Resveratrol can help reduce the pain and inflammation of RA.
9. Increased Lifespan
All of the positive properties listed above — anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immune-regulating, and so on — likely increase longevity.
Resveratrol also has anti-aging properties. Researchers have shown in lab studies that resveratrol activates anti-aging genes. Resveratrol can also make anti-aging enzymes like sirtuin work faster, helping the fight against aging at a cellular level.
Resveratrol is also anti-aging for the skin, and skincare companies have started putting it in their products. Who doesn’t want better-looking skin?
What is the current scientific research on resveratrol? The current scientific research on resveratrol suggests that it has many properties that will help keep you healthy. Resveratrol’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging properties show a lot of promise for treating disease.
What is the recommended dosage of resveratrol? The recommended dosage of resveratrol depends on how much you weigh and your medical history. Most people take anywhere from 200 mg to 1500 mg daily, depending on their healthcare provider’s recommendations.
What’s the takeaway?
Resveratrol has many potential benefits, so you can see why it’s become such a media darling.
If you have risk factors for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, dementia, or other serious chronic illnesses, you might want to consider adding resveratrol to your diet.
One of the best ways to get more resveratrol is through wine. Even white wine contains resveratrol, although not as much as red wine or blush wine. But drinking alcohol can cause many adverse effects, so drinking a lot of wine to get more resveratrol isn’t really a good idea.
That’s where Surely comes in. Our sparkling rosé and sparkling white wine have zero alcohol but still contain all of the great antioxidants and polyphenols like resveratrol. You’ll get all of the health benefits of wine without the nasty hangover the next day.
Who doesn’t love that?
- The health benefits of wine.
- Health benefits of wine and alcohol from neuroprotection to heart health.
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- HPLC-F analysis of melatonin and resveratrol isomers in wine using an SPE procedure.