5 Uses and Benefits of Resveratrol

Can this grape and wine antioxidant help you live longer?

resveratrol from red grapes
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Found naturally in red wine, grapes, and chocolate, resveratrol is a polyphenol compound thought to act as an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory

A popular remedy said to offer a broad range of health benefits, proponents claim that resveratrol can stave off Alzheimer's disease, combat cancer, promote weight loss, and prevent heart disease and diabetes.

The Benefits of Resveratrol: Can It Really Help?

Much of the research pointing to the benefits have been laboratory or animal-based studies.

So far, research on resveratrol's effectiveness in humans has yielded mixed results. Here's a look at some key study findings:

1) Aging and Brain Health

In a study published in the journal Neurology in 2015, people with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease showed slight improvements in their ability to maintain certain daily activities independently, such as dressing and bathing, after taking resveratrol supplements for a year.

The study assigned 119 people to take either a placebo pill or 500 mg of resveratrol once a day (with the dose increasing by 500 mg increments every 13 weeks) for 52 weeks. Results revealed that those taking resveratrol also had greater brain volume loss (a positive sign in Alzheimer's disease). The dose used was very high, and the most common adverse effects were nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. 

2) Heart Health

For a review published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2015, researchers analyzed six previously published studies on the effects of resveratrol on blood pressure.

The overall outcome of the analysis indicated that resveratrol couldn't significantly reduce blood pressure, however a higher dose was found to significantly decrease systolic blood pressure (the top number on a blood pressure reading). 

Another review, published in the International Journal of Cardiology in 2015, examined the effectiveness of resveratrol on cardiovascular risk factors.

After analyzing 10 previously published studies, the researchers concluded that the analysis "does not suggest any benefit of resveratrol supplementation on CV risk factors", including total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and levels of C-reactive protein.

3) Cancer

Resveratrol holds promise in the prevention and treatment of cancer, according to a 2011 report from the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. Indeed, a number of preliminary studies suggest that resveratrol may have anti-cancer effects. In a 2008 study on cell cultures, for example, resveratrol helped suppress breast cancer progression in its earliest stages. Published in Cancer Prevention Research, the study found that resveratrol helped prevent estrogen from reacting with DNA molecules and forming compounds that mark the start of cancer cell formation.

Despite these findings, the data from the limited human clinical trials have shown inconsistent outcomes and the American Cancer Society cautions that randomized clinical trials are needed to confirm the cancer-fighting effects of resveratrol.

4) Weight Loss

To date, most of the data on resveratrol and weight loss have come from preliminary research. For instance, scientists found that resveratrol may stimulate the expression of adiponectin (a hormone shown to possess anti-obesity properties and fight insulin resistance). Published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry in 2011, the study tested the effects of resveratrol on cells and animal models.

Previously published test-tube and animal-based studies show that resveratrol may help speed up metabolism and counteract the formation of fat cells. In a 2009 report from Nutrition Research Reviews, however, scientists cautioned that resveratrol should not be recommended for obesity prevention or treatment until more is known about its safety and effectiveness as a weight-loss aid.

5) Skin Care

Preliminary research indicates that resveratrol may fight skin damage caused by ultraviolet light. For instance, a 2005 study from The FASEB Journal found that resveratrol may protect against aging when applied directly to the skin. To date, however, there is a lack of clinical trials testing the skin-protecting effects of topically applied resveratrol.

Sources

Trans-resveratrol is a form of resveratrol commonly found in supplements. Proponents often claim that trans-resveratrol is the most stable form of resveratrol. Indeed, a 2010 study from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that trans-resveratrol remained stable even after exposure to heat, cold, and ultraviolet light.

Resveratrol is also found in Japanese knotweed (Polypodium cuspidatum), grape seed extract, cissus quadrangularis, and Morus alba.

Possible Side Effects

Since resveratrol may possess estrogen-like properties, some medical experts recommend that people with hormone-sensitive cancers (including cancers of the breast, ovary, or uterus), pregnant women, and children avoid taking resveratrol.

In addition, resveratrol could interact with blood thinners like warfarin, aspirin, and ibuprofen, which may raise your risk of bleeding. 

There is some concern that high doses of resveratrol supplements could lead to kidney problems in some people.

Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. You can get tips on using supplements here.

Using Resveratrol for Health

Although resveratrol shows promise, there isn't enough high-quality human research yet to recommend resveratrol for the prevention or treatment of any condition. If you are interesting in boosting your intake from food, one of the richest food sources of resveratrol is red wine. It's important to note, however, that you'd have to drink a lot of red wine to increase your resveratrol intake, and that comes with a trade-off. Consuming too much alcohol may raise your risk of high blood pressure, liver damage, obesity, and some forms of cancer.

To boost your resveratrol intake without consuming alcohol, try eating resveratrol-rich foods like grapes, raspberries, plums, blueberries, cranberries, grape tomatoes, and pomegranate (all of which are rich in a range of antioxidants and other nutrients).

If you're still considering using resveratrol supplements, talk to your healthcare provider before starting your supplement regimen to weigh the pros and cons and discuss whether it's appropriate for you.

Sources: 

Liu Y, Ma W, Zhang P, He S, Huang D. Effect of resveratrol on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Clin Nutr. 2015 Feb;34(1):27-34.

Sahebkar A, Serban C, Ursoniu S, et al. Lack of efficacy of resveratrol on C-reactive protein and selected cardiovascular risk factors--Results from a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Int J Cardiol. 2015;189:47-55. 

Turner RS, Thomas RG, Craft S, et al. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of resveratrol for Alzheimer disease. Neurology. 2015 Oct 20;85(16):1383-91. 

Wang A, Liu M, Liu X, et al. Up-regulation of adiponectin by resveratrol: the essential roles of the Akt/FOXO1 and AMP-activated protein kinase signaling pathways and DsbA-L. J Biol Chem. 2011 Jan 7;286(1):60-6.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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