All about resveratrol…

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It’s the magic ingredient that lets you drink red wine and claim it’s for your health, but are resveratrol supplements worth the hype?

If you’ve read all the encouraging articles saying red wine is good for you, resveratrol is the reason why. Now this little, but increasingly popular, plant compound is being hyped as providing all sorts of exciting health benefits from lower blood pressure, sharper brain function and a longer healthier life.

So, what is it, and how does it work?

Resveratrol foods

Resveratrol is a natural polyphenol found in around 70 plant species around the world. Top sources of foods that contain resveratrol include grapes, berries, peanuts and, of course, red wine. You’ll mainly find it in the skins and seeds of grapes of berries which are included as part of the fermentation process in wine making. Other sources of resveratrol include pistachios, blueberries, cranberries and cocoa and dark chocolate.

What is resveratrol used for?

Resveratrol is increasingly being used as a supplement due to its ability to act as an antioxidant agent; antioxidants work by preventing or slowing damage to cells caused by free radicals. These are unstable molecules produced by the body as a reaction to environmental and other pressures. Resveratrol can scavenge these molecules reducing the damage they do. In theory, over time, this can reduce the progress of aging.

Resveratrol has also been shown to demonstrate anti-inflammatory and anticarcinogenic properties. It has also shown it can improve health and lifespan in several lab studies.

Best resveratrol supplement

Resveratrol can be found through plenty of natural sources, but the last few years have seen the rise of supplements. These are a good way to get your full resveratrol dosage in one go and ensure bioavailability. Awareness of available supplements is growing, thanks in large part to the rising demand for products that can improve health and wellbeing and the amount of education resources available to the customer.

Supplements companies are keen to prove efficacy, purity and provenance of their wares, and savvy customers can shop around to find the right supplement for them. Resveratrol supplements come in various forms. Some use pterostilbene which is chemically similar to resveratrol, but has a few extra methyl groups, which are designed to make it better absorbed by the gut into the bloodstream. Both have been found to have a beneficial impact on blood glucose levels, cardiovascular disease and cognitive function. Some trials have suggested pterostilbene may be even better than resveratrol and it is fast becoming one of the supplements to watch.

Red wine

Resveratrol supplements on the market, or products that include resveratrol or pterostilbene, include:

Resveratrol for skin

Oxidative stress is one of the major causes of skin aging. As an antioxidant, gobbling up free radicals, resveratrol is perfectly placed to reduce this effect, but it also goes further. One of its most valuable features is its ability to spark the production of other antioxidants which provide further protection to the skin.

It also has phyto oestrogenic properties and can help to arrest the decline of collagen and skin elasticity as we age. It can also inhibit tyrosinase, a vital enzyme in the pigment melanin biosynthesis, and helps to smooth out irregular pigmentation in your skin leading towards a fresher and more youthful look.

Resveratrol for heart disease

Used over the long term, some studies suggest resveratrol can be effective in reducing the risk of heart disease. In high doses it can bring down blood pressure by lessening the pressure on blood vessel walls when blood pumps.

It can also have a positive impact on blood fats, reducing cholesterol by reducing the impact of an enzyme which controls cholesterol production.

Brain function

There has been some research suggesting resveratrol can have an impact on cognitive decline. This may be thanks to its ability to reduce inflammation or that it modulates metal ion deregulation outcomes and some of the main features of Alzheimer’s.

However, as interesting as these findings are there is much more research to be done, and there is still uncertainty about how well the body makes use of supplemental resveratrol.

Resveratrol side effects

According to studies, resveratrol does not have severe side effects at small doses. However, in long term dosages over 2.5g, studies have identified problems such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. In terms of other resveratrol side effects liver problems have been seen in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

There can also be some impact from resveratrol in oestrogen production. It is closely chemically related to oestrogen and different doses can have different impacts. In high doses it can boost oestrogen activity, while in other doses they can block it. Some resveratrol supplements, therefore, may not be suitable for women with cancer of the breast, ovary, uterus or those trying to become pregnant.

As well as these impacts there are also suggestions that resveratrol can help to reduce insulin sensitivity, ease joint pain and even reduce the risk of cancer. While much of this data is promising research is still ongoing. Scientists are still learning about how this remarkable compound works and its impact on the body.

Intrigued by resveratrol? Find out more in our Supplements Report, and check out our supplements company profiles here.

Image credit Jill Wellington /  Pixabay and Julia Kuzenkov / Pexels

 


 

The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Eleanor Garth
Deputy Editor Now a science and medicine journalist, Eleanor worked as a consultant for university spin-out companies and provided research support at Imperial College London and various London hospitals in a former life.

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