Live Longer and Healthier with Resveratrol

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People who live or come from France consume high-cholesterol foods, yet have low rates of heart disease. This is known as the “French paradox”. The underlying reason for this benefit may be that they drink red wine during dinner. Grapes have a powerful antioxidant called resveratrol that helps improve a person’s overall health. Whereas red wine contains the largest amount, all wines have resveratrol. Muscadine wines contain up to 7 times the amount of this polyphenol than that in regular wines. Resveratrol functions like an antibiotic that protects grapes from fungus. As levels increase, these grapes have increased resistance to stress caused by severe cold or fungus.

Researchers, experimenting with mice, discovered the anti-carcinogenic potential of resveratrol. Their study, led by John Pezzuto at the University of Illinois at Chicago, was written-up in the journal “Science” in 1996. It has been known that the protein NF-kappa beta enables tumor cells to survive chemotherapy. In mice, resveratrol was used to block this protein, thereby allowing these cancer cells to be eliminated by the chemotherapy. This study showed a 3-way action for resveratrol: It has protective benefits in preventing DNA damage, cell metaplasia, and tumor growth. In essence, it kept cells from becoming cancerous and halted the spread of malignancies. The researchers also found that it blocked cell inflammation which is inherent in arthritis and other maladies.

In 2000, a study in the journal “Cancer Research” conducted by researchers of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina had taken the research done earlier and applied it to human tissue. Using both cultured human and animal tissue cells, they found that resveratrol turned off the NF-kappa beta protein in both human and animal cells, thus allowing cancer cells to be exposed to cancer-fighting therapies.

High concentrations of this antioxidant are found in peanuts, mulberries, grape skins (especially red), dark chocolate, and the Japanese knotweed plant. In Eastern medicine, this plant (known as Polygonum cuspidatum) is used to enhance circulation and to improve the heart. Most of the supplements found in stores contain extracts of the Japanese knotweed. These are consumed in order to prevent heart disease and to reduce the risk of getting cancer. It may also stimulate one’s immune system and protect against the herpes simplex virus. Side effects are related to the gastrointestinal system, including nausea and diarrhea. It is not recommended to be taken by either children or women who are pregnant. The proper dosage varies between 15 – 300 mg per day. In comparison, a glass of red wine contains less than 1 mg of resveratrol. Consequently, a person would need to drink 100 bottles of red wine each day to get close to a dose that would be of therapeutic value.

The earliest studies done on the benefits of resveratrol demonstrated improved heart function in humans, as well as making obese mice thin, and allowing flies, fish, and worms to live longer. It was Harvard geneticist David Sinclair who researched for more than a decade to assess the chemical link that caused cells to rejuvenate themselves. He studied resveratrol’s action with sirtuins, a group of enzymes that trigger proteins to reinvigorate cells. His research was written-up in the journal “Science” in 2013. It was discovered that resveratrol activates SIRT 1, a sirtuin that modifies particular proteins, allowing them to alter cell behavior that is advantageous to health. Anti-aging research has studied the consequences of calorie restriction, a form of mild stress, which drives cells into a state of crisis, thereby activating sirtuins which enables them to repair damage, and thus, preserve healthy cellular activity. Sinclair’s research has shown that resveratrol elicits similar cellular reactions, consequently increasing the body’s cellular defenses against disease and aging.

New research published in the journal “Neurology” in September 2015 has found that resveratrol likely stabilizes levels of the protein amyloid beta in both plasma and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in those with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. In this 1-year study, 119 patients were either administered with a high dose of pharmaceutical grade resveratrol or a placebo. Those taking resveratrol were started at 500 mg per day. This dosage was increased every 3 months to a maximum of 2000 mg per day. (This high dose is equivalent to 1000 bottles of red wine.) At the end of 1 year, the levels of amyloid beta 40 were determined in both groups. In those taking resveratrol, this protein in CSF decreased from 6574 to 6513 mg/ml, whereas in the placebo group, it went from 6560 to 5622 mg/ml. Amyloid beta 40 in plasma in the treated group declined from 163 to 153 mg/ml; in the placebo group, it went from 165 to 132 mg/ml. These results showed that amyloid proteins in blood and CSF became stabilized in the resveratrol group compared to the placebo group in which there was a tendency for it to regress at a greater degree. This trend could indicate that more amyloid was being deposited in the brain. Also, the stabilization of amyloid beta 40 in these two fluids implies that resveratrol was able to cross the blood-brain barrier. MRI’s were also performed on both group’s brains. These demonstrated that the brain volumes were reduced more in the treatment group than in the placebo group. Thus, resveratrol had the effect of decreasing brain inflammation and swelling in Alzheimer’s patients.

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