Human beings have been seeking the fountain of youth since time immemorial. Resveratrol, an ingredient in red wine, has recently gained notoriety as a youth-extending nutrient-but it isn't really new.
More than 1,000 years ago, Drakshasava, an ayurvedic remedy often described as weak wine, was used as a tonic for the heart. Resveratrol made up a "significant portion" of the brew, according to an analysis by scientists at the University of Illinois, published in Antioxidants & Redox Signaling. But ancient tradition isn't the reason resveratrol has attracted so much attention.
Scientific interest in the nutrient began gaining momentum in 1997, when a study showed that resveratrol was capable of preventing cancer in mice. Since then, the number of published studies testing the effects of the ingredient on cell cultures and animals has grown to more than 4,000, according to a review of research scheduled for publication in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research. And the research indicates formidable benefits.
Animal and cell studies show that resveratrol is a strong antioxidant that inhibits dangerous oxidation of cholesterol; fights inflammation; reduces risk for diabetes; may help control weight; and helps protect the heart. Now, human studies are beginning to show similar results.
Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in Bronx, N.Y., found that resveratrol showed benefits among 10 people with prediabetes (blood glucose levels that aren't high enough to be classified as diabetes but indicate risk for the disease). According to Jill Crandall, MD, director of the Diabetes Clinical Trials Unit at Einstein, "Preliminary studies suggested that glucose metabolism, insulin sensitivity, and vascular function improved." Such changes reduce the risk for both diabetes and heart disease.
Protecting against Aging
At the State University of New York at Buffalo, researchers gave either resveratrol or a placebo to healthy people (10 in each group) for six weeks. Those in the resveratrol group showed a significant drop in levels of oxidative stress and inflammation, compared with no such drop in the placebo group. Such an effect protects against damage that develops with aging.
In another study, the same research team tested the effect of resveratrol or a placebo among 10 healthy people who ate a high-fat, high-carbohydrate meal containing 930 calories-about the equivalent of a typical fast-food dish. Although such food raises levels of oxidation and inflammation, resveratrol suppressed this harmful response. Both studies were published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
The Buffalo researchers suggest that resveratrol may activate the genes that enhance production of antioxidants. Plus, the supplement may reverse the negative effects of high blood glucose (triggered by starchy, sugary foods) on the lining of arteries. This type of damage is more pronounced with aging, and resveratrol may resuscitate a natural artery-protecting mechanism that degenerates as we age.
Researchers also noted that among obese people, the supplement might help restore the function of the hormone leptin, which signals when we've eaten enough. In other words, resveratrol might help control appetite.
The French Paradox
Despite the increase in obesity worldwide, France is still pretty skinny. Approximately 14 percent of women and 16 percent of men are obese, according to the World Health Organization. Compare that to about 34 percent in the United States.
"The French paradox is alive and well," says Naomi Whittel, CEO of Reserveage Organics, a Gainesville, Fla.-based company that produces resveratrol supplements. "Despite a diet rich in saturated fat," she says, "The French have strong cardiovascular systems and stay trim."
ReserveAge Organics supplements are currently being used in clinical trials. Researchers at the University of Florida are measuring the cognitive benefits of resveratrol, while scientists at the University of Miami-in a study being funded by
the National Institutes of Health-are examining the benefits of resveratrol supplementation among stroke patients.
The quantities of resveratrol in red wine are too low to produce the types of therapeutic effects observed in studies. According to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, a 5-oz. glass of red wine contains between 0.17 and 1.89 mg of resveratrol, and 1 cup of red grapes contains between 0.24 and 1.25 mg.
In supplements, look for resveratrol from natural sources, which include grapes and Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum). The most common daily dosage is 250-500 mg.
Nature's answer resveratrol reserve is a delicious liquid with proprietary blends of trans-resveratrol from grapes, as well as high-ORAC foods, including pomegranate, purple corn, and red raspberry. Take 1 tsp. daily added to water.
paradise herbs & essentials resveragrape combines trans-resveratrol from red wine grapes with whole grape extract, polyphenols, and OPCs (concentrated antioxidants). Take two vegetarian capsules daily.
reserveage organics the world's finest resveratrol has 250 mg of trans-resveratrol from organic French grapes. This age-defying formula also contains grape seed and quercetin. You only need 1 capsule daily.