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Resveratrol in Grapes Goes Beyond Protecting the Heart

Commonly found in red wine, resveratrol can protect more than just your heart. Learn why that glass of red wine a day may be keeping the doctor away.

You’ve heard how drinking a glass of red wine is good for your heart. Your doctor may have even advised you to start the habit. But you wonder, is this just another old wives’ tale, or is there a scientific basis for this assumption? It gets you thinking, what exactly is in red wine that makes it so heart-friendly?

A good place to start would be the French Paradox. The is the debate over the confusingly low incidence of heart disease among the French in spite of their regular diet of high fat foods. Researchers zeroed in on their high consumption of red wine as a probable nutrient-rich agent that promotes heart health, and resveratrol was found.

What is Resveratrol?

Resveratrol is a chemical that occurs naturally in plants with powerful antioxidant properties that provide a defensive mechanism against disease. Although resveratrol only recently gained popularity in 1992 (studies about resveratrol in red wine started in 1976), this plant phenol has been mentioned as far back as 1939 by the Japanese researcher Michio Takaoka. Takaoka isolated resveratrol from a poisonous Japanese medicinal plant and studied its curative properties. In a study made public only in November 2011, a 100 mg dose of 99 percent pure resveratrol was given to obese men, resulting in a decrease in fats in their livers, blood sugar levels becoming regulated, lowered blood pressure and improved metabolic function.

Today, resveratrol is best associated with red wine. But it's also present in other plant foods such as blueberries, mulberries, peanuts, eucalyptus, spruce and lily. The highest concentration of resveratrol is found in the skin of red grapes, specially the Vitis vinifera, Vitis labrusca and Vitis muscadine varieties. The length of time the grape skin is included in the fermentation process determines the amount of resveratrol content. Since the skin is left on for a longer period in the fermentation of red wine, it has higher resveratrol than white wine. There are no known adverse effects from taking resveratrol supplements, as tested on both humans and mice.

The Benefits of Resveratrol

Resveratrol’s action in the human body is not limited to the heart. As an antimicrobial substance that increases its production in plants when there is a threat of disease or infection, it acts similarly in humans. Resveratrol has contributed to the treatment or prevention of these conditions:

  • Cardiovascular:
    Resveratrol has the ability to dissolve fats in the body. It also reduces platelet aggregation. These actions prevent the formation of plaque on the arterial walls and lower the body’s cholesterol levels, thereby preventing atherosclerosis and coronary artery diseases, including heart attacks and strokes. Moreover, in a study conducted by Hungarian scientists, 20 individuals who had suffered a myocardial infarction (heart attack) and were given resveratrol supplements showed significant improvement in left ventricular function, lowered their "bad" (LDL) cholesterol level and improved endothelial function after three months.
  • Anti-aging:
    Resveratrol initiates processes in the body that result in sirtuin activation. Sirtuins are a class of genes that prolong cellular life and prevent early aging. They also help damaged cells repair themselves and have the same effect as humans being put on calorie-restricted diets.  
  • Type 2 Diabetes:
    Studies have shown regular intake of one to two grams daily of resveratrol can prevent prediabetic individuals from developing type 2 diabetes. Prediabetes is a condition wherein the blood sugar level is higher than the normal allowable figure but lower than that of diabetic levels. Most people with prediabetes progress into diabetes within 10 years, increasing their risk for heart disease, blindness, neuropathy and other conditions.
  • Alzheimer’s Disease:
    Resveratrol has anti-amyloidogenic mechanisms that can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia by 50 percent by blocking their pathology, making it more effective than non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs.

Resveratrol may be taken in the form of supplements, which are available in strengths of 10 to 50 milligrams. A single dose per day is sufficient in most cases for health maintenance.


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