One of the most publicized nutrients in the media is the stilbene known as resveratrol. This organic compound has been found to cut down cardiovascular disease, prevent certain cancers, help slow aging, and possibly aid in weight control. It can even improve spinal bone density in men with metabolic syndrome and may be one reason why people belonging to wine loving cultures are often so healthy. However, scepticism abounds with many naysayers claiming that there is not enough evidence and that any purported benefits are just an excuse for red wine fans.
Despite the aforementioned scepticism, new research has uncovered at least one mechanism behind resveratrol’s medicinal properties. As it mimics the amino acid tyrosine, the enzyme TyrRS is activated when bound to resveratrol, which “tricks” the enzyme into moving them to the cell nucleus, where it can then protect DNA from damage. This enables resveratrol to enact much of its anticancer and antiaging effects.
The TyrRS enzyme has been described as a mechanism that works in “virtually all” lifeforms, even adding weight to the vast number of animal studies on resveratrol. Another way that resveratrol assists in CVD prevention is by improving flow-mediated dilation, as seen in one study on people at risk of CVD.
In a different study, patients with stable coronary artery disease receiving a grape extract containing resveratrol showed increases in anti-inflammatory chemicals and inhibition of chemicals and genes that promote inflammation. Additionally, angina patients experienced a decrease in C-reactive protein and brain natriuretic peptide after receiving resveratrol and calcium fructoborate supplements.
As stated above, resveratrol has also been found to have anticancer properties. After only 8 daily doses at 500 or 1000mg, colorectal cancer patients had shown a reduced proliferation of tumor cells by 5%. Resveratrol may even inhibit cancer stem cells, which are now known as the primary drivers of tumor development and cannot be defeated by even the “best” in chemo and radiation.
Not even Type II diabetes is safe from resveratrol, with the compound showing the ability to significantly decrease insulin resistance and urinary excretion of orthotyrosine. Resveratrol has also been found to have properties that prevent or slow neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, brain ischaemia, and even Huntington’s disease.
Brain ischaemia and HD models demonstrated resveratrol’s ability to rescue neurons from cell death, despite the latter being a genetic disease. As for Alzheimer’s disease, resveratrol can reduce production of beta-amyloid proteins and destabilise preformed beta-amyloid fibrils.
It is even more effective than curcumin at inhibiting beta-amyloid formation – at a rate of 63% as opposed to 45% – and curcumin’s effects on Alzheimer’s are quite well publicised. The most powerful inhibitor was epsilon-viniferin glucoside, at 93%. Epsilon-viniferin glucoside is a conjugated dimer of resveratrol, found in red wine, the grape species Vitis vinifera and in the medicinal herb known as white peony, or Paeonia lactiflora. Resveratrol’s third effect on Alzheimer’s disease is the ability to protect neural cells from dying of beta-amyloid induced toxicity, partially by its antioxidant properties.
Resveratrol and its health benefits can be obtained from several sources, most famously by drinking red wine; Pinot Noir, and St Laurent grapes have been found to contain the highest levels of resveratrol. For those who are unable to drink wine for personal or religious reasons, other sources include cranberries, blueberries, pomegranates and of course, the red grapes which wine is made from.