Ever heard of the French Paradox? It’s the phenomenon that people in France typically eat a diet that’s high in fat-laden pastries and creamy sauces, yet have significantly fewer heart attacks and live longer than people in other countries.
What researchers have found is that at least part of the puzzle lies in the French people’s affinity for red wine. Red wine contains resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant that helps to preserve and restore good health.
What Is Resveratrol?
Resveratrol is a phytonutrient found in the skins and seeds of grapes, peanuts and a handful of other plants that protects them against fungi. It is also particularly abundant in the roots of a plant called Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum).
What Conditions Are Resveratrol Supplements Good For?
- Digestive disorders
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Immune challenges
- Low-bone density
- Memory problems
- Metabolic syndrome
- Vision disorders
- Weight control
How Does Resveratrol Work in the Body?
Research suggests that resveratrol’s benefits stem from its positive effects on the sirtuin family of enzymes. Enzymes are proteins that initiate and speed up chemical reactions. Sirtuin enzymes play multiple roles in health and longevity. More specifically, they do the following:
- Facilitate DNA repair
- Maintain genome stability
- Protect against oxidative stress
- Reduce inflammation
Due to its ability to kick these protective enzymes into high gear, resveratrol supplements help to:
- Strengthen bones
- Improve memory
- Increase insulin sensitivity
- Enhance endothelial function
- Reduce arterial stiffness
- Stimulate fat burning
What the Studies Say About Resveratrol Supplements
To date, more than 3,400 peer-reviewed journal articles have been published on resveratrol. Although most of the studies have involved rodent models of human disease, they leave no doubts about the therapeutic potential of resveratrol supplements. Here are a few examples.
A landmark study at Harvard University showed that when mice ate a high-fat, high-calorie diet plus resveratrol supplements beginning at 12 months of age (equivalent to age 40 in humans), they not only lived about 30 percent longer than a control group, but they also had significantly fewer age-associated health problems.
All of the mice on this rich diet got fat. But the animals that were given resveratrol supplements had enhanced insulin sensitivity, fewer fatty deposits in the arteries and liver, lower levels of inflammation, and better balance and motor skills. Resveratrol supplements, in essence, negated the damaging effects of a poor diet, obesity and aging.
Another study showed that resveratrol put the brakes on angiogenesis (the formation of blood vessels) in the retina. Abnormal blood vessels simply disappeared! This is promising for the treatment of macular degeneration and retinopathy.
In a randomized, double-blind study, researchers gave obese but otherwise healthy men either 150 mg of resveratrol supplements or a placebo for 30 days, and then switched the groups. Resveratrol conferred a number of benefits, including reduced blood pressure, triglycerides, inflammation and fatty deposits in the liver.
How to Make Resveratrol Work for You
One way to reap the benefits of resveratrol is to increase your intake of the foods that contain it. But it is difficult, if not impossible, to get the 100–250 mg recommended daily dose of resveratrol from food alone.
For example, one glass of red wine contains 1–2 mg of resveratrol, so you’d have to drink dozens of bottles a day to achieve therapeutic levels. That’s why the easiest, most prudent way to boost your anti-aging defenses is to take resveratrol supplements—and the sooner you start the better.
Be aware that the market is saturated with resveratrol supplements, so read labels carefully and buy from a reputable manufacturer. I suggest looking for a standardized extract of trans-resveratrol.
More Dr. Whitaker Advice on Nutritional Support