Miracle molecule, elixir of youth, universal remedy … the definitions attributed to resveratrol are many and varied. One thing’s for sure, this active principle offers incredible therapeutic potential. Widely-studied, resveratrol is scientifically defined as a polyphenol of the stilbene group. If you’re unfamiliar with the polyphenol family, it encompasses a large number of active principles from the plant world. It includes, for example, curcumin, the powerful, natural antioxidant in turmeric, and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), the compound responsible for the benefits of green tea.
It was in 1939 that tra-resveratrol was first identified by Japanese scientist Michio Takaoka. He succeeded in extracting this polyphenol from veratrum grandiflorum (Veratrum album L. var grandiflorum), a plant native to mountainous regions, from which the name resveratrol is derived. However, this is not the only source of resveratrol. In the 1960s, it was identified in the well-known Asian medicinal plant, Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica, also called Reynoutria japonica and Polygonum cuspidatum). The rhizome and young leaves of Japanese knotweed are traditionally used to treat inflammation (bronchitis, hepatitis …) and cardiovascular diseases (hypertension, atherosclerosis).
Scientific advances led to resveratrol being subsequently identified in a large number of plant extracts. Today, we know it to be present in many plants and fruits. For example, it is found in cocoa beans and in grapes, and as a result, in chocolate and red wine too. Perhaps you’ve heard of the ‘French Paradox’ and the cardiovascular benefits of red wine? We explore this further in the following paragraph.
To understand how resveratrol fits into the ‘French Paradox’, we need to go back to the origin of this expression. First coined at the beginning of the 1990s, it relates to the culinary habits and consumption of red wine by the French. While traditional French gastronomy is known to be high in fat, the cardiovascular consequences of such a rich diet appear to be offset by moderate consumption of red wine. Though it may seem hard to believe, it has been confirmed by several scientific studies. Experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) even noted that the cardiovascular mortality rate may be lower in those who consume moderate amounts of red wine. As a result of further studies, this protective effect was attributed by some scientists to the polyphenols in red wine. Thus the ‘French Paradox’ may largely be explained by the resveratrol content of red wine and the properties of this polyphenol.
The properties of resveratrol may not only be responsible for the cardiovascular benefits of grapes and red wine, but also for the therapeutic potential of a number of fruits, superfoods and medicinal plants. Though not exhaustive, the following paragraphs outline the main therapeutic properties of resveratrol.
Antioxidant power. Resveratrol is often described as a potent, natural antioxidant – and with good cause, since numerous studies have demonstrated its ability to oppose the accumulation of free radicals, the highly-reactive compounds that can cause significant damage to the body.
Anti-aging effects. As a result of these antioxidant properties, resveratrol offers anti-aging effects. By combatting free radical damage, it fights premature aging of the body’s tissues. Some studies have also shown that it may activate certain longevity genes. It is for these various reasons that this active principle features in the composition of anti-wrinkle creams, as well as in that of anti-aging supplements such as Resveratrol Synergy.
Anti-inflammatory activity. Resveratrol is a natural anti-inflammatory. Several studies have shown that it helps reduce the secretion of pro-inflammatory substances. In this way, it can stem, and even prevent, certain inflammatory reactions. It may also be effective for relieving inflammation-induced pain.
Anti-cancer action. Studies show that resveratrol’s anti-inflammatory activity also enables it to fight the development of cancer cells. This anti-cancer action is attracting the interest of a number of specialists.
Blood lipid-lowering effect. Researchers are also interested in its benefits for the lipid profile. Results show that it may help naturally reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It also lowers levels of ‘bad’ (LDL) cholesterol.
Anti-platelet action. Resveratrol also seems to act as a natural anti-platelet agent, fighting platelet aggregation. This suggests it could help prevent cardiovascular problems related to platelet aggregation in the blood.
Cardio-protective effects. Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, blood lipid-lowering, blood cholesterol-lowering, anti-platelet … resveratrol offers multliple benefits for cardiac function. These cardio-protective effects have been observed in a number of studies.
Appetite-suppressant effect. For some years now, resveratrol’s natural appetite-suppressant effect has been attracting the interest of a number of researchers. Studies show it may reduce the amount of food consumed by more than 10%.
Anti-diabetes effect. Research has also shown that taking resveratrol may increase pancreatic hormone sensitivity and thus improve blood sugar control in type 2 diabetics.
Given all these properties, resveratrol offers numerous benefits for protecting our health. Though not exhaustive, the paragraphs below outline the therapeutic potential of this polyphenol.
Cardiovascular disease. As the ‘French Paradox’ suggests, resveratrol does indeed offer benefits for cardiovascular health. It combats various risk factors such as the generation of free radicals, hyperlipidaemia, hypercholesterolaemia and platelet aggregation.
Chronic inflammatory disease. A natural anti-inflammatory, resveratrol has been studied for its potential to prevent and treat a number of inflammatory conditions. Positive results have been noted in relation to inflammation of the heart, liver and gut.
Obesity. With its hypolipidaemic and appetite-suppressant effects, resveratrol offers significant potential for fighting obesity and related problems. As a result, a number of specialists are considering using it in weight-loss programs.
Type 2 diabetes. Preliminary studies suggest that taking resveratrol may offer benefits in the care of type 2 diabetes.
Cancer. As an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, resveratrol offers promise in the prevention and treatment of cancer. Positive results have been achieved in studies into skin and prostate cancer in particular.
Neurodegenerative diseases. Several studies suggest that this polyphenol may have benefits for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. Its antioxidant potency appears to help prevent the degeneration of neurons by protecting them against free radical attack.
Age-related problems. More generally, resveratrol offers a number of advantages for preventing and combatting the consequences of cellular aging. An obvious example is its effects on the skin, but this active principle could actually help prevent a large number of age-related problems.
As mentioned, resveratrol is found in certain fruits and food and drink products, though not necessarily in optimal amounts. It is also a relatively fragile compound. To benefit fully from the effects of resveratrol, another option is to choose from a range of dietary supplements which have the advantage of being formulated to offer an optimal content of the active principle. You could, for example, opt for a supplement of trans-resveratrol which is the bioactive form of resveratrol, ie, the one which is active in the body. It is extracted from the root of Japanese knotweed, the medicinal plant from the Asian pharmacopoeia known for its high content in trans-resveratrol.
There is, as yet, no officially recommended dose for resveratrol. You should therefore follow the amount advised for the particular supplement you choose. For optimal efficacy, it’s worth noting that you can also combine resveratrol with other active principles. You may be aware of the synergistic formulation AntiOxidant Synergy. This combines resveratrol with other natural antioxidants including extracts of grape seed, green tea, turmeric, sea buckthorn, pomegranate, black rice, raspberry, tart cherry, blueberry and strawberry. A comprehensive antioxidant concentrate, AntiOxidant Synergy is a powerful ally for protecting the body.
Generally speaking, resveratrol is very well tolerated by the body as long as recommended doses are respected. As with any active principle, taking too high a dose may result in certain side-effects. It should also be noted that its therapeutic properties may, in certain cases, present contraindications. Since it helps prevent platelet aggregation, it is contraindicated in those taking anti-platelet or anticoagulant drugs. As a precautionary measure, resveratrol-based dietary supplements are also not recommended for pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, or children. If in doubt, seek medical advice before starting to take resveratrol supplements.
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