The remarkable polyphenol that’s found in stressed plants, like red wine, blueberries, and peanuts.

Photo by Burgess Milner on Unsplash

Resveratrol has been in the media for decades and its effects have had no shortage of controversial debates. The hype began in the early 1990s when scientists at Cornell University discovered its cardiovascular benefits. Shortly after, exciting news about resveratrol in red wine blew up in the media. However, before you consume copious amounts of red wine, you should read this article. It will dive deep into what resveratrol is, how it works biochemically, the different forms of resveratrol, its bioavailability, and dosage based on studies done in human participants.

WHAT IS RESVERATROL?

Resveratrol is a naturally produced molecule in a variety of plants. It serves as a defense mechanism when plants undergo stress from pathogens such as bacteria and fungi. UV radiation also damages plants, so resveratrol acts as a protector to these harmful effects. This molecule in plants make them stronger in times of stress. Resveratrol is present in different food sources including the skin of red grapes, the root of a Japanese knotweed, blueberries, raspberries, mulberries, peanuts, and of course it’s found in red wine, albeit in insignificant amounts.

RESVERATROL BENEFITS

Again, cardiovascular benefits from resveratrol was first discovered and since then, even more studies have shown other beneficial effects from the consumption of resveratrol. The growing body of knowledge in academic literature regarding resveratrol is enormous and its documented health effects are indisputable at this point.

In addition to improvements in cardiovascular health, resveratrol has been shown in multiple studies to improve metabolic and neurological health, increase endurance, extend lifespan in healthy animals, lower blood pressure, prevent osteoporosis, and showcase promising anti-cancer properties.

Furthermore, resveratrol acts like a calorie restriction mimetic. This means that it induces the same biochemical effects in the cells as would starvation or fasting would do. Multiple studies have shown that autophagy is induced with resveratrol. Precisely, reductions in cytosolic acetyl CoA happens and increases in protein deacetylation, which serves as a trigger to induce cellular autophagy.

HOW DOES RESVERATROL WORK BIOCHEMICALLY?

As previously mentioned, resveratrol occurs naturally when plants undergo hormesis, aka stress. When resveratrol is produced, the plants are activating their sirtuin pathways, which are longevity pathways designed in defense to external stressors. Sirtuins are enzymes that aid in guiding cells properly, so they can perform their job to stay healthy and to fight off diseases. Humans also have sirtuins, so when we ingest these plants that are filled with resveratrol, we activate our sirtuin pathways as well. More specifically, resveratrol binds to the SIRT-1 enzyme (there are 7 sirtuin genes, named SIRT1-SIRT7) and activates it. Resveratrol has been shown to step on the accelerator pedal of sirtuins. It does this by directly controlling the body’s defense to aging.  

This benefit humans get from eating plants with bioactive compounds is called xenohormesis. Xenohormesis indicates environmentally stressed plants can induce a longevity-conferring effect upon consumption. Stress induced plants have more resveratrol than ones that aren’t stressed. This is why when grapes are stressed for wine making, the end product is great wine. More importantly, a by-product of these stressed grapes is lot of resveratrol.

Fun fact: pinot noir wines contain the most resveratrol relative to other wines. However, to get the beneficial benefits of resveratrol equating the rodent studies, one must consume a barrel of wine a day – unfortunately, not recommended by any scientist or doctor.

There are two types of resveratrol:

1) Trans-Resveratrol – the predominant and stable form that elicits the majority of biological effects.

2) Cis-Resveratrol – less active, unstable form that does not activate SIRT1. Therefore, longevity benefits are not shown to occur with the consumption of cis-resveratrol.

BIOAVAILABILITY OF RESVERATROL

Resveratrol is a remarkable molecule, but there are a couple problems with it. Firstly, it’s a very insoluble molecule. If it is administered as a dry powder to any organism, whether it be a human, rodent, or even in yeast, it is less likely to get absorbed. This can be solved by simply consuming moderate amounts of fat with resveratrol. The result, an astonishing increase of 5-10-fold in the bloodstream. Human participants in a study that administered trans-resveratrol with 19 grams of fat, 70 grams of carbs, and 12 grams of protein for breakfast increased bioavailability.

Secondly, resveratrol is not a stable molecule, as it is extremely light sensitive. Studies have shown that upon a few hours of solar UV radiation exposure, trans-resveratrol converts into its less active form, cis-resveratrol through induced isomerization.

DOSAGE BASED ON HUMAN STUDIES

Resveratrol has been shown to have beneficial effects on high blood pressure and abnormal blood lipids. There has been multiple studies published where human participants who have type 2 diabetes demonstrated that 1 gram of resveratrol a day reduced blood pressure, fasting blood glucose and circulating insulin, while increasing HDL levels in siginifcant amounts.

Another study revealed that 150mg of resveratrol for 30 days stimulated caloric-restriction effects in humans. The participants in the study benefited by decreaseing their blood pressure and also improving their blood glucose, insulin and triiglyceride levels compared when they took a placebo.

Additionally, when humans with non-alcoholic fatty disease took resveratrol in either 300mg or 500mg dosage for 3 months, their serum LDL levels improved, as well as their liver fat concentrations and inflammatory biomarkers.

CONCLUSION

Resveratrol has been shown in multiple studies to have a myriad of health benefits. Supplemental administration has revealed improvements in cardiovascular health, metabolic health and neurological health, prevention of osteoporosis and age-related diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, as well as physiological benefits such as activating anti-inflammatory and antioxidant response pathways, along with activating SIRT1. Endurance has also been shown to be positively influenced by resveratrol. In addition, extension of lifespan is documented. Everyone can benefit from a calorie-restriction mimetic, and resveratrol, when taken in proper amounts with a moderate fat breakfast can induce autophagy by activating the same biochemical effects in the cells as fasting would do. Again, resveratrol needs to be kept in a cool, dark place in order to keep the integrity of the trans-resveratrol molecule that elicits all the health benefits. Supplements on the shelf, that are kept warm and are exposed to light will turn the trans-resveratrol brown and convert the molecule to its less active form, cis-resveratrol. If the powder doesn’t go brown in these conditions, then the supplement contains something other than resveratrol in it. Click here for an article on how to find high quality, pure supplements.

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