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Human beings have been seeking the fountain of youth since time immemorial. In recent years, resveratrol, a key ingredient in red wine, has gained notoriety as a youth-extending nutrient—but it isn’t completely new.
More than 1,000 years ago in India, Drakshasava, an Ayurvedic remedy that is often described as a 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 that resveratrol has attracted so much attention.
Scientific interest in the nutrient began to gain momentum in 1997, and since then, the number of published studies testing the effects of the ingredient 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; it fights inflammation; it reduces risk for diabetes and may help control weight; and it helps dilate blood vessels and protect their lining, thereby protecting the heart. Now, human studies are beginning to show similar results.
At the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in Bronx, N.Y., researchers found that resveratrol produced benefits among 10 people with prediabetes (blood glucose levels that aren’t high enough to be classified as diabetes but indicate high risk for the disease).
Jill Crandall, MD, professor of clinical medicine and director of the Diabetes Clinical Trials Unit at Einstein, presented the findings at an annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association (ADA). “Preliminary studies suggested that glucose metabolism, insulin sensitivity, and vascular function improved,” says Crandall. Such changes reduce risk for both diabetes and heart disease. Since her presentation, the ADA has provided funding for another human trial of resveratrol.
Protection 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, resveratrol or a placebo was given to 10 healthy people who ate a high-fat, high-carbohydrate meal containing 930 calories, representative of a typical fast-food dish. Although such food raises levels of oxidation and inflammation, resveratrol suppressed this response. Both studies were published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
Resveratrol may activate genes that enhance production of our internal antioxidants. Plus, the supplement may reverse 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 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 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.
Editors’ pick: Alcohol-Free Wine Bar
No sommelier required. Resvez Winetime Bar Dark Chocolate with Dates and Almonds contains more resveratrol than 50 glasses of red wine. Rich, chocolatey, and satisfying, it’s a delicious way to get the benefits of resveratrol, plus fiber, and vitamins and minerals including magnesium.
aw good buys
Reserveage Organics Bio-Active Trans-Resveratrol delivers trans-resveratrol at the peak of potency, giving you the benefits of red wine without the alcohol, sulfites, or excess calories.
Jarrow Formulas Resveratrol synergy brings together resveratrol with other powerful antioxidants including green tea, resulting in a potent synergistic formula to support healthy aging.
Nature’s Plus Açai Resveratrol combines the benefits of whole açai fruit, red wine, and grape seed, providing a range of anti-aging compounds. Standardized extracts guarantee maximum potency.