You’ve probably heard of resveratrol, or more commonly referred to as ‘the anti-cancer agent in red wine’. In addition to being a powerful antioxidant, resveratrol has been shown in studies to help prevent weight gain when consumed by rodents (mice and rats). Additionally, several clinical trials have been conducted involving human participants who were given resveratrol, and these trials have unanimously shown that resveratrol improves overall health and well-being.
Now, you might be wondering if this compound is safe and effective for humans to consume, and if so, how much should you take? Let’s dive into the research and find out.
How Does Resveratrol Work?
Resveratrol is a substance that is naturally produced by the grape skin when grapes are exposed to sunlight. Grapes that are grown in cool regions, such as the northern parts of France and Italy, are typically more abundant in resveratrol compared to those grown in warmer regions. Thus, if you’re wondering where you can find the highest levels of resveratrol, look no further! The best way to eat more grapes, and therefore get a better yield of resveratrol, is to grow your own or buy them from an organic farmer you can trust.
Resveratrol is easily absorbed by the human body, and it has been shown to reach concentrations as high as 4.7μmol/L in the blood after dietary intake. This is more than sufficient to produce positive health effects, as blood levels greater than 2.7μmol/L have been shown to be associated with decreased risk of chronic diseases. It is thought that resveratrol achieves this through a variety of mechanisms of action, including but not limited to, the following:
- AMP Aktivation (Aktivierendes AMP): This is a compound that naturally occurs in the body, and it helps to maintain healthy bloodflow throughout the arteries. One study found that rodents given resveratrol had significantly increased levels of activated AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), suggesting that these compounds can help to improve blood vessel function and may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Apoptosis (Programmierte Apoptose): This is the orderly cell death that occurs in the body’s natural processes, such as skin cell renewal and immune cell destruction. Several studies have shown that resveratrol can significantly reduce the incidence of apoptosis, or programmed cell death, in rodents and humans. This is a very promising finding, as decreased apoptosis has been associated with several positive health effects, such as reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and type 2 diabetes. In addition, increased apoptosis has been associated with several diseases and medical conditions, including but not limited to, neurodegenerative disorders, AIDS, and cancer. Hence, by decreasing apoptosis, resveratrol may help to prevent and treat a wide range of illnesses and diseases.
- Cellular Senescence (Zellular Senescence): This is a condition in which cells stop dividing and start behaving in an age-like manner. While normal aging is a normal and necessary process that everyone has to face, excessive or prolonged cellular senescence can lead to several chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. Several studies have shown that resveratrol can prevent or slow down the process of cellular senescence in rodents and humans, suggesting that this compound may help to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease. Unfortunately, some cancer cells are also susceptible to undergo senescence, and therefore resveratrol may not be able to prevent or treat cancer completely.
- Nrf 2 Activation (Nrf 2-Aktivierung): This is a defense mechanism which occurs naturally within cells when they are exposed to stressors, including but not limited to, toxins, radiation, and nutrient deficiency. When cells have activated this mechanism, they can more effectively combat the effects of oxidative stress and prevent several diseases and medical conditions associated with oxidative stress and damage, including but not limited to, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. It has been shown in several studies that resveratrol can significantly increase the expression of genes that promote cell survival under conditions of stress, and therefore it may be able to increase resistance to chemotherapy in cancer patients.
- Mitochondrial Function (Mitochondrial Funktion): This is the function of the cell’s energy production and conversion machinery, which generates adenosine triphosphate, otherwise known as ‘the energy currency of the cell’. Several studies have shown that resveratrol can significantly increase the function of the mitochondria in rodents and humans, suggesting that this compound can play an important role in enhancing energy production and may protect the human body from diseases and medical conditions caused by a lack of energy.
- ROS (Reactive Oxygen Species) (Radikales Ölexkys): These are molecules that can cause damage to cells by oxidizing proteins, fats, and DNA. Studies have shown that resveratrol can help to reduce the amount of ROS in the blood stream when administered to rodents and humans, suggesting that this compound may be able to protect the human body from diseases and medical conditions caused by excessive ROS.
- Nrf 3 Activation (Nrf 3-Aktivierung): This is yet another defense mechanism that occurs naturally within cells when they are exposed to stressors, such as toxins and radiation. When cells have activated this mechanism, they can better defend themselves against these stressors and prevent several diseases and medical conditions associated with these stressors, including but not limited to, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and heart disease. It has been shown in several studies that resveratrol can significantly increase the expression of genes that promote cell survival under conditions of stress, and therefore it may be able to prevent or slow down the effects of aging on the body. Unfortunately, some cancer cells also have high levels of Nrf 3 activity and therefore may not be able to be prevented or treated by resveratrol alone. In addition, prolonged exposure to toxins and radiation can also cause increased levels of cellular senescence, suggesting that resveratrol may not be able to prevent or treat all diseases and medical conditions associated with aging and stress.
- Tumor Suppression (Tumor Suppression): This is a mechanism by which cancer cells are more likely to undergo apoptosis (programmed cell death), or ‘cell suicide’. Several studies have shown that resveratrol can increase the likelihood of a cell killing itself, leading to the death of the tumor cell and therefore reducing the risk of cancer in humans and animals. Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, some cancer cells undergo cellular senescence and therefore may not be able to be protected by resveratrol.
What About Side Effects?
As we’ve already discussed, there are numerous health advantages to resveratrol. However, this compound also has been associated with several side effects in rodents and humans. It has been shown in several studies to dramatically increase the lifespan of animals, but at the same time, cause liver and kidney damage, as well as heart disease. In addition, it has also been shown to be a tumor promoter in mice and rats, meaning it can increase the risk of cancer in these animals. Fortunately, these studies were conducted using extremely high levels of the compound (up to 300mg/kg dietary intake), which are not achievable in humans. Therefore, while its effects are exciting, and potentially groundbreaking, in large doses, it can also be harmful.
In conclusion, resveratrol is a compound that has a long and storied history in science. Its effects on the human body, both positive and negative, are exciting and far-reaching. It’s a compound that can play a critical role in preventing and treating a wide range of diseases and medical conditions. With that in mind, it is imperative to conduct more research on this fascinating chemical before it is fully understood and its many health benefits are truly discovered.