Resveratrol has been touted as having many benefits, from helping reduce the signs of aging to helping with heart disease, diabetes, and other conditions. Maybe you heard about this compound somewhere online or from a friend and wondered what it’s all about. What is resveratrol, what are the benefits, and what are the side effects of resveratrol? Can you find food with resveratrol or other sources of resveratrol? Discover all this and more in this blog!
What is Resveratrol?
Resveratrol is a polyphenol that is naturally found in some foods. It’s a phytoalexin that plants produce when they’re under stress because of inflammation, drought, or fungal attack. This compound tends to be concentrated in the seeds and skins of berries and grapes.
Scientists first became interested in this chemical because of its antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals, but they can also help repair damage that oxidizing agents leave behind.
Resveratrol is perhaps best known for its link with the French paradox. Despite having a diet rich in bread, butter, and cheese, the French have a relatively low rate of heart disease. Some believe that this is because they drink so much red wine, which has an abundance of resveratrol.
Resveratrol is believed to expand blood vessels while reducing the activity of cells involved in blood clotting. This may be why it has a reputation for promoting heart health.
Along with its blood vessel benefits, resveratrol offers many other potential benefits.
The Benefits of Resveratrol
Resveratrol is associated with many health benefits, and some of these benefits are backed by research.
May Lower Blood Pressure
Resveratrol is rich in antioxidants, which makes it a promising option for lowering blood pressure.
A review from 2015 found that high doses of this chemical can reduce pressure on artery walls. Researchers believe this compound may help lower blood pressure because it helps the body produce more nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps relax blood vessels.
May Protect the Brain
Some studies have linked red wine consumption with the slowing of age-related cognitive decline. Researchers believe this may be at least partly due to resveratrol’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity.
Resveratrol appears to interfere with beta-amyloids, which are protein fragments that form the plaque associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
There is also some evidence that resveratrol may trigger a chain of events that help protect brain cells from damage, but more research is needed.
May Improve Insulin Sensitivity
Animal studies have shown some evidence that resveratrol may help with diabetes by preventing complications and increasing insulin sensitivity.
Researchers believe that resveratrol may stop a particular enzyme from converting glucose into a sugar alcohol called sorbitol.
Sorbitol build-up can lead to oxidative stress in people with diabetes.
Resveratrol may also help people with diabetes in other ways, such as:
- Decreasing inflammation
- Preventing oxidative stress (thanks to its antioxidant activity)
- Activating AMPK, which helps keep blood sugar levels low
Although more research is needed, researchers believe that resveratrol may be used to help manage diabetes and the complications associated with it.
May Have a Positive Effect on Cholesterol
Animal studies have found that resveratrol may affect blood fats in a healthy way.
In one study, mice were fed a diet high in protein and polyunsaturated fats. These mice were also given resveratrol supplements. The researchers found that the average body weight and cholesterol levels of the mice decreased, while their HDL cholesterol levels (the “good” cholesterol) increased.
Researchers believe that this effect may be due to resveratrol reducing the effects of a certain enzyme that’s in control of cholesterol production.
May Help with Joint Pain
In one animal study, researchers injected the knee joints of rabbits with resveratrol. The study found that the rabbits had less cartilage damage.
Other test-tube studies have found that resveratrol has the potential to prevent joint damage and reduce inflammation.
May Help Suppress Cancer
There is some evidence that resveratrol may help prevent and treat cancer, but more research is needed.
Test-tube and animal studies have found that resveratrol may help fight several types of cancer cells, including colon, gastric, prostate, skin, and breast cancers.
Researchers believe that resveratrol may help fight cancer cells by:
- Inhibiting the growth of cancer cells
- Changing gene expression to also inhibit cancer cell growth
- Interfering with certain hormones that may prevent hormone-dependent cancers from spreading
Foods with Resveratrol
There are many natural sources of resveratrol, many of which are foods and drinks, including:
- Dark chocolate
- Red wine
- Grape juice
Generally, resveratrol is concentrated in the skin and seeds of these foods, which is why drinks such as grape juice and red wine are rich in the compound. The skin is used to produce both of these beverages.
In addition to regular peanuts, resveratrol can also be found in peanut butter and other products made with peanuts.
The Side Effects of Resveratrol
Studies involving resveratrol haven’t found any major side effects, and healthy people seem to tolerate resveratrol supplements well.
That being said, there are some side effects and concerns that you should be aware of.
Resveratrol may interact with certain medications, so it’s important to talk to your doctor before you start taking resveratrol supplements or consuming more foods and drinks that contain this compound.
Test tube studies have shown that high doses of resveratrol may prevent blood clotting. This means that the compound may increase bruising or bleeding in people taking anti-clotting drugs or certain types of pain relievers.
Resveratrol may also inhibit some enzymes that clear compounds from the body, which can lead to an unsafe build-up of medication in the body.
The bottom line? If you’re taking any medications, talk to your doctor before taking a resveratrol supplement or adding more resveratrol food and drinks to your diet.
Aside from potential medication interactions, there have been no reported side effects associated with resveratrol. Long-term effects are still unknown. But in one short and brief study, patients were given 150 mg of resveratrol daily and reported no side effects.
Resveratrol is a potent antioxidant that has promising benefits. There are several ways to add more resveratrol to your diet, whether through supplements, foods, or drinks. But if you’re on medications, be sure to consult with your doctor first to make sure that resveratrol is safe for you.