How do the French eat more fat, sugar and rich foods, plus drink more wine, but still have less heart health issues? The answer to this puzzling question, commonly known as the french paradox, is believed to be due to a higher intake of a specific phytonutrient called resveratrol, found naturally in superfoods like red wine. Like other antioxidants and phytonutrients, such as lycopene found in tomatoes or lutein found in carrots, resveratrol is a powerful compound that regenerates the body all the way at the cellular level.
Research published over the past several decades in many medical journals, including the European Journal of Food Pharmacology andAmerican Journal of Hypertension,found that resveratrol (in this case from red wine) decreases the risk of heart disease among other common health concerns. Although he might not have known exactly how wine was able to promote better health, even Plato promoted the health perks of drinking it in moderation. Hes been quoted as saying, Nothing more excellent or valuable than wine was ever granted by the gods to man. (1)
In case youre wondering, you dont have to be a wine drinker to benefit from resveratrol. Other sources include deeply- olored berries and real dark chocolate/cocoa. Along with helping to keep arteries clear from plaque buildup and protecting an aging heart, this phytonutrienthas many other health benefits too including reducing inflammation, potentially helping to prevent obesity and protecting cognitive health among the elderly.
Resveratrol is a polyphenic bioflavonoid antioxidant thats produced by certain plants and found in foods and drinks that are known to halt the effects of aging. Resveratrol is classified as aphytoestrogen because of its ability to interact with estrogen receptors in a positive way. Plants that produce resveratrol and other types of antioxidants actually do so partly as a protective mechanism and response to stressors within their environments, including radiation, the presence of insects or other predators, injury, and fungal infections. Today, resveratrol is believed to be one of the most potent polyphenols and strongest protectors against symptoms associated with aging andfree radical damage.
Studies show that the most naturally abundant sources of resveratrol (not to mention many other protective phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals) are plants, including the skin of red grapes, red wine, raw cocoa, and dark berries, such as lingonberries, blueberries, mulberries and bilberries. Red wine is probably the best known source, mostly due to its high levels thanks to the fermentation process that turns grape juice to alcohol. During production of red wine, grape seeds and skins ferment in the grapes juices, which have positive effects on levels and availability of resveratrol.
The benefits of resveratrol were first discovered when researchers found that yeast and other microbes, insects and animals fed resveratrol experienced an increased life span as a result. Various studies continued to confirm its amazing anti-aging benefits, demonstrated in studies conducted on fruit flies, fish, mice and nematode worms, all of which lived longer compared to control groups that were not treated with this phytonutrient.
Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals produced during everyday bodily functions, such as eating and exercise. Free radical damage is accelerated due to poor lifestyle habits like smoking, eating an unhealthy diet, and in response to environmental pollution and toxicity. If left unchecked, free radicals can damage cells and are thought to be a cause of life-threatening diseases andearlier death. Consuming plant foods high in antioxidants and phytonutrients has been shown to offer antioxidative, anticarcinogenic and antitumor benefits that protect adults from many age-related diseases. (2)
According to research published by the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Seville in Spain, One of the most striking biological activities of resveratrol soundly investigated during the late years has been its cancer-chemopreventive potential. In fact, recently it has been demonstrated that it blocks the multistep process of carcinogenesis at various stages: tumor initiation, promotion, and progression.
Its believed the mechanisms for its cancer-protecting activities involves downregulation of the inflammatory response through inhibition of synthesis and release of pro-inflammatory mediators, among other activities. (3)
Because of its anti-inflammatory activity, resveratrol has been shown to offer protection against atherosclerosis (thickening of the arteries that cuts off blood flow), high LDL bad cholesterol, formation of blood clots and myocardial infraction. Consuming more has also been shown to help improve circulation and have beneficial effects on glucose and lipid metabolism in some with higher risk for metabolic syndrome. (4)
Itadori tea, one significant source of resveratrol, has long been used in Asian countries, including Japan and China, as a traditional herbal remedy for preventing heart disease and strokes.
Resveratrol is particularly unique as its antioxidants can cross the blood-brain barrier to protect the brain and the nervous system, unlike other antioxidants. Recent studies done by researchers at the Nutrition Research Center at Northunbria University in the U.K. showed that resveratrol noticeably increased blood flow to the brain, suggesting a considerable benefit to healthy brain function and neuroprotective effects.
This means consuming more can increase protection against cognitive/mental problems, including Alzheimers, dementia and others. Other study findings, such as results published in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, demonstrated that even a single infusion of resveratrol could elicit neuroprotective effects on cerebral (brain) neuronal loss and damage. (5) This resulted from increased free radical scavenging and cerebral blood elevation due to resveratrols effects.
Findings from animal studies have found that resveratrol exerts beneficial effects on rodents fed a high-calorie diet, helping prevent fat storage and regulating insulin levels. (6) Others research has shown that resveratrol may help reduce body weight and adiposity in obese animals, which some experts believe is due to activating the SIRT1 gene thats believed to protect the body against the effects of obesity.
Its not totally clear how this translates to humans consuming foods or drinks like wine and berries, but studies have found links between adults eating balanced diets that include moderate amounts of wine and healthier body weights.
Animal studies involving diabetic rats have demonstrated that resveratrol may be able to reduce hyperglycemia and may also possibility be of use in preventing and/or treating both obesity and diabetes. Resveratrol may be helpful for those with diabetes and prediabetes byreducing complications (like nerve damage and damage to the heart) and helping manage insulin levels. Its known that this phytoestrogenpositively affects insulin secretion and blood insulin concentrations, according to animal studies. (7)
As you can tell from all the benefits described above, resveratrol and sources that provide it, including red wine, are more than just powerful heart-protectors. Theyre also strong brain-boosters, among many other things. People use resveratrol for all sorts of anti-aging benefits, considering research suggests that itcan help:
Should You Take Resveratrol Supplements?
Because the FDA does not regulate supplements, many health authorities are not convinced that taking resveratrol supplements or extract will have much payoff. As with all herbs and extracts, you cant be sure exactly what youre getting and how effective the product may be.
Dosage recommendations vary depending on your current health and symptoms, but most resveratrol supplements are typically taken in about 250 to 500 milligrams/day dosages. Its important to point out that this is generally lower than the amounts that have been shown to be beneficial in studies, but its not clear if taking very high doses is safe. Some adults choose to consume up to two grams daily (2,000 milligrams). (8) According to the New York Academy of Sciences, studies have found resveratrol to be safe and reasonably well-tolerated at doses of up to five grams per day, but this shouldnt be taken without speaking with your doctor. (9)
Its possible, however, to experience mild to moderate side effects at higher doses, so experts recommend starting with less until further studies demonstrate any added benefit of taking more. Resveratrol supplements may potentially interact with blood thinners like warfarin (Coumadin) and NSAID pain relievers (like aspirin or Advil), so be sure not to mix these.
Resveratrol works by modifying inflammation in the body, in addition to having other positive effects on hormone production, blood circulation and fat storage. Studies demonstrate that itspecifically seems to work in some of the following ways:(10)
Now you know the benefits of resveratrol in your diet, you may be wondering what the best source of this compound is. Below are the best foods and beverages to add to your diet (albeit in moderation) in order to consume more resveratrol:
Different plants supply various forms of resveratrol. For example grapes, peanuts and Itadori tea contain mainly trans-resveratrol glucosides. Red wine is primarily a source of the aglycones cis- and trans-resveratrol. Studies show that both Itadori tea and red wine supply relatively high concentrations of resveratrol compared to most other foods. Itadori tea is a good option for people who avoid drinking alcohol or for children.
Although we have mentioned that red wine and cocoa are two of the best sources of resveratrol, unfortunately a diet of dark chocolate and red wine may be decadent but ultimately very unhealthy if you overdo it. The best way to obtain the benefits of resveratrol is through balance and moderation. I recommend consuming wine in small amounts, about one glass per day or less; according to most research, up to two glasses daily for men and one per day for women hasnt been shown to cause any health concerns. If you do choose to take resveratrol supplements, still aim to consume antioxidants naturally from a healthy diet, including a variety of fresh plant foods.
While a large body of evidence has already suggested that resveratrol has many benefits, many experts feel that before we can promote drinking more wine or taking supplements to all adults, additional research is still needed. Overall theres support for itspositive attributes, but data is still needed to confirm its effectiveness for prevention of actual diseases in humans. Its still not completely known how different people react to resveratrol and if some benefit more than others. For example, people with existing cases of diabetes or metabolic defects may need to take higher doses than mostly healthy adults to get the same effects. Talk to your doctor if you plan on taking supplements and are already on other medications.
Overall, most of the benefits of resveratrol have been shown in animal studies and at high dosages. Harvard School of Public Health points out, The dose of resveratrol administered in experiments is always much higher than youd normally consume in a daily diet. You would need to drink a hundred to a thousand glasses of red wine to equal the doses that improve health in mice. (11)
That being said, resveratrol is not a cure-all and means to living a longer, disease-free life. It may be one piece of the puzzle, but the bottom line is that it probably shouldnt motivate you to drink more wine than you already are.
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Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith