Resveratrol is the plant molecule in red grapes, berries, and peanuts. In the early 2000s,(1) red grape skins were found to contain powerful antioxidant plant molecules(2) known as polyphenols. One of these plant molecules, resveratrol, has been found very potent in combatting aging, coronary heart disease, and brain degeneration and possibly fighting certain forms of cancer.
The research scientists were amazed to find that resveratrol had the very real potential to extend life, avert cancer and heart disease, maintain weight or promote weight loss, and even help create athlete-worthy musculature.
The 2002 research conducted by Dr. David Sinclair (biologist, molecular geneticist and director of the Paul F. Glenn Laboratories for the Biological Mechanisms of Aging at Harvard Medical School) showed him that resveratrol could activate certain genetic pathways and once inside the body produce the following amazing benefits:
• improved memory
• reduced fat cells, despite a high-calorie diet
• increased energy and endurance in muscle cells
• enhanced muscle strength and decreased fatigue
• improved coordination and mobility
• decreased incidence of certain cancers, vascular disease and brain degeneration.
The secret of plant molecules like resveratrol can be traced back several million years to the grassy plains of Africa. There, as our ancestors were exposed to severe stress from environmental and climatic changes on the savanna, specific human genes were activated to control carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism in order to improve their chances of survival.
Coexisting with our ancestors on the African savanna were plants that recognized and responded to a host of environmental stresses like drought, infection, pests, viruses and scorching sun just as humans did. In order to survive, like humans, these stressed plants activated their innate survival genes and produced natural molecules (resveratrol, to name one) to increase their own cellular defenses and repair mechanisms as a result.
There is a symbiotic relationship between certain plant-produced molecules and the animals or humans that eat them. Animals and humans actually activate their own survival genes by ingesting specific molecules from plants that have been subjected to stress.
Resveratrol found in red grape skins has been instinctively produced by such a stress response to the grapes’ environment making it able to fight off fungal infections and other invaders that might otherwise kill the plant.
It’s believed that senescent skin cells may contribute to sagging and wrinkling and investigations are underway to explore this theory.
Resveratrol takes that information and ‘communicates’ with the person consuming it via the language of molecular genetics and activation of the survival/longevity gene known as SIRT1 is initiated.
Resveratrol, also found in some berries and in peanuts, has been shown to be extremely beneficial in preventing or mitigating a number of diseases but only in supplemental forms of the compound and in concentrations higher than those you could ever get through grape skins, berries or peanuts.
Drinking one five-ounce glass of red wine provides 0.29 to 1.89 mg (a similar amount of red grape juice provides 0.17 to 1.30 mg. of resveratrol), but the human body requires a far higher daily dose of resveratrol in order to have a real effect on health and mitigating aging.
Even at the extremely low level of resveratrol ingested by drinking two glasses of red wine per day, the polyphenols in the wine will offer some health benefits, but you should not count on getting any significant resveratrol benefit just by drinking red wine or red grape juice.
Joseph Maroon, MD advises the best estimated resveratrol dosage in his book, The Longevity Factor: How Resveratrol and Red Wine Activate Genes for a Longer and Healthier Life:
“… Resveratrol doses ranging from 50 to 200 mg could produce significant health benefits.”
As a point of reference, 200 mg is equivalent to drinking between 40 and 200 bottles of red wine per day! You just could never drink enough red wine to get a therapeutic dose of resveratrol so you absolutely have to supplement with it.
A 2015 review concluded that high doses of resveratrol may help reduce the pressure—systolic blood pressure—applied to artery walls when the heart beats. Systolic blood pressure typically goes up with age as arteries stiffen and is a risk factor for heart disease.
Aortic stiffness has been proven to be positively impacted by consuming a 300 mg per day dose of resveratrol. Aortic stiffness was decreased in the group who consumed this dosage over time by 9 percent. The lower the dose administered, the lower the percent of improvement was realized.
Resveratrol is believed to influence cholesterol levels by reducing the effect of an enzyme responsible for cholesterol production.
Resveratrol has been shown to have several benefits for diabetes including increasing insulin sensitivity and preventing health complications arising from diabetes. It’s believed to prevent a certain enzyme from turning glucose into sorbitol, a sugar alcohol. When those with diabetes build up too much sorbitol in their systems, cell-damaging oxidative stress can and most often results.
The breakdown of cartilage causes joint pain and inflammation. When taken as a supplement, resveratrol mitigates cartilage deterioration.
Resveratrol may also inhibit cancer cell growth(3) by 1) preventing the cells from replicating, 2) changing gene expression to inhibit its proliferation, and 3) changing hormonal expression thereby preventing the spread of hormone-dependent cancers.
Several studies suggest that drinking red wine can help slow down age-related cognitive decline perhaps because of resveratrol’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. In this case, a high dosage of supplemental resveratrol is not required. Resveratrol seems to work against protein fragments called beta-amyloids which form the plaques that are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
There are a plethora of indisputable historical records demonstrating disease prevention through consuming fruits and vegetables and especially certain of their components like resveratrol. While scientific efforts are always underway to discover the next magical youth and thus, health-promoting technology, the humble red grape may have been holding the sought-after secret known as resveratrol all along.
(1) These scientific breakthroughs were made by Harvard Medical School, the National Institute on Aging and the Institute of Genetics and Molecular and Cellular Biology, France.
(2) anthocyanins, flavanols, flavonols, stilbenes (resveratrol) and phenolic acids
(3) The cancer preventive research is still underway and results are not yet definitive.
Maroon, Joseph. The Longevity Factor: How Resveratrol and Red Wine Activate Genes for a Longer and Healthier Life. United Kingdom, Atria Books, 2008.
Pezzuto, John M. “Resveratrol: Twenty Years of Growth, Development and Controversy.” Biomolecules & therapeutics vol. 27,1 (2019): 1-14. doi:10.4062/biomolther.2018.176
Resveratrol: State-of-the-art Science And Health Applications - Actionable Targets And Mechanisms Of Resveratrol. Singapore, World Scientific Publishing Company, 2018.
Jennings, Kerri-Ann. “7 Health Benefits of Resveratrol Supplements.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 3 Mar. 2017, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/resveratrol#TOC_TITLE_HDR_11.