What is Resveratrol?
Resveratrol is classified as a phytoestrogen 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 and free 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 grape’s 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.
5 Resveratrol Benefits
1. Has Anti-Aging and Anti-Cancer Effects
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 and earlier 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.
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.”
It’s 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.
2. Protects Cardiovascular Health
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.
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.
3. Helps Protect the Brain and Cognitive/ Mental Health
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 Alzheimer’s, 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.
This resulted from increased free radical scavenging and cerebral blood elevation due to resveratrol’s effects.
4. May Help Prevent Obesity
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.
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 that’s believed to protect the body against the effects of obesity.
It’s 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.
5. Benefits Those with Diabetes or Prediabetes
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.
It’s known that this phytoestrogen positively affects insulin secretion and blood insulin concentrations, according to animal studies.
Best Sources of Resveratrol
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:
- Red grapes and red wine. In case you’re wondering, white wine has some too but much lower amounts since the grapes’ skins are removed earlier in the wine-making process.
- Certain types of traditional teas, including Itadori tea, common in Asian countries
- Raw cocoa (dark chocolate)
- Although I don’t generally don’t recommend eating them often, peanuts and soy are other resveratrol sources.
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.
Excerpt from Dr. Axe’s article “Resveratrol: The Anti-Aging Powerhouse That’s Good for the Heart, Brain & Waistline“