Resveratrol - the Power of Red Wine: Longevity and Antioxidants

January 20, 2009

In recent years, resveratrol, an ingredient in fermented wine grapes, has become a hot topic. From its cancer fighting properties, being a strong antioxidant, helping reduce weight and lowering Diabetes type II risk as well as cardiovascular health risks to extending lifespan power, this tiny molecule seems to be a miracle.

Numerous studies have been conducted regarding various purported resveratrol benefits. Studies have primarily been conducted on laboratory animals, while human research is also very promising.

Resveratrol belongs to a class of polyphenolic compounds called stilbenes. Some types of plants produce resveratrol and other stilbenes in response to stress, injury, fungal infection, or ultraviolet (UV) radiation to protect themselves.

Scientists became interested in exploring potential health benefits of resveratrol when its presence was discovered in red wine, leading to speculation that resveratrol might help explain the “French Paradox.

Resveratrol affects the body by mimicking caloric restriction. Since the publications of Donald Ingram, Richard Weindruch and others in the late 1990s, caloric restriction has been shown to increase the lifespan of rodents and even primates. Caloric restriction also provides numerous secondary benefits, such as a greatly lowered risk for most degenerative conditions of aging, and improved measures of general health. Many researchers believe that the evidence to date shows the practice of CR will extend the healthy human life span. The main effect of caloric restriction is to increase a group of proteins, called Sirtuins (SIR 2 in insects, SIR 1 and SIR 3 in human), which are stimulated by fasting and low energy intake.

Adding resveratrol to yeast increased Sir2 activity in the absence of caloric restriction and extended the lifespan of yeast by 70%. Resveratrol feeding also extended the lifespan of worms (C. elegans) and fruit flies (D. melanogaster) by a similar mechanism. A recent study reported that resveratrol extended the lifespan of mice on a high-calorie diet such that their lifespan was similar to that of mice fed a standard diet. 

A recent aging study in mice also found that a low dose of dietary resveratrol altered gene expression in heart, brain, and skeletal muscle similar to that induced by caloric restriction. Resveratrol increases SIRT 1 and SIRT 3 and effects in this way life span and weight loss. The other major way that resveratrol is believed to promote weight loss is due to its basic function as an antioxidant.

The “French Paradox”—the observation that mortality from CHD is relatively low in France despite relatively high levels of dietary saturated fat and cigarette smoking—led to the idea that regular consumption of red wine might provide additional protection from heart disease.  A recent aging study found that a low dose of dietary resveratrol altered gene expression in heart, brain, and skeletal muscle similar to that induced by caloric restriction —a finding confirmed by more than 60 epidemiological studies.

Wine is rich in resveratrol. Recent studies have indicated that resveratrol can work to even reduce the growth of leukemia.

To achieve the health and longevity benefits, more than 20 bottles of red wine would have to be consumed  drunken daily.  In order to provide an adequate amount, resveratrol capsules have been developed. As a dietary supplement, grape seed extract is a very popular choice.  Twenty milligrams is generally agreed to be the daily resveratrol dosage that is appropriate for most people.  It is important to be aware that needlessly taking large resveratrol doses might cause side effects that are not very pleasant. Researchers giving a different resveratrol dosage to various laboratory animals have noted side effects that include anemia, anxiety, overly thin blood and diarrhea. Starting with 20 mg is effective. In some cases, the dosage can be increased by the physician while monitoring side effects.

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