Resveratrol Review, Benefits & Information
Resveratrol is a compound found in grapes (primarily in the seeds and skin), red wine, other fruits and peanuts. It’s a “phytoalexin“—an agent produced as a defense against bacteria and fungi. Resveratrol is believed to have a range of health benefits. For example, in-vitro and animal experiments have demonstrated it has anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory effects.
In addition to food, resveratrol is available as a nutritional supplement, derived from grape skins/seeds, red wine extract or Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum)—an Asian medicinal plant. It’s classified as a nutraceutical, and is currently being studied for possible applications to a number of degenerative diseases.
Initially, it was believed that resveratrol (from red wine) was responsible for the “French Paradox”—a term used to describe the relatively low incidence of cardiovascular disease in France, despite high rates of smoking and intake of animal fats.
Resveratrol does have potential cardioprotective effects, however, it’s only one of several active compounds in red wine.
Thus, it’s premature to attribute the alleged health and longevity of the French to resveratrol alone (much less red wine).
Nonetheless, research has uncovered other properties relevant to human health and longevity.
In addition to the effects noted above, resveratrol is of particular interest for its possible anti-cancer effects.
Cell culture tests have shown it interferes with the three stages of cancer development: initiation, promotion and progression of the disease.
Resveratrol may also interfere with the development and progression of neurological diseases like Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s. Tests have not been conducted with human subjects, however.
Research has also focused on the anti-aging effects of resveratrol. A Harvard University study published in 2003 showed it significantly extended the lifespan of yeast. Later studies showed increases in the lifespans of nematodes, fruit flies, a species of fish, and mice. Because of these results, it has been hypothesized that resveratrol may have anti-aging effects in humans, as well.
Further, it may help improve athletic performance. In 2006, a study conducted at the Institute of Genetics and Molecular Cell Biology in France noted that mice fed high-doses of resveratrol (400 mg/kg) for 15 weeks were able to endure exercise better than those not fed the supplement. Resveratrol also increased serum testosterone and other reproductive functions in rabbits (which accounts for its current popularity as a bodybuilding supplement).
Resveratrol supplements are available in capsule and powdered form. There are two isomers: cis and trans: the latter is the biologically relevant form.
While resveratrol shows a great deal of promise, questions remain about its utility in humans, as oral bioavailability is low and human clinical data is still lacking…pilot studies are just beginning.
In addition, estrogenic effects have been observed under certain experimental conditions, thus, it should be avoided by women who are pregnant (or planning to become pregnant) or concerned about breast cancer. In general, however, resveratrol is considered safe and no specific adverse health effects have been reported.
It’s affordable too; 60 caps of NOW brand Resveratrol can be had for less than $17 at BodyBuilding.com, our recommended online retailer.