How do the French eat more fat, sugar and rich foods, plus drink more wine, but still have less heart health issues? The answer to this puzzling question, commonly known as the “french paradox,” is believed to be due to a higher intake of a specific phytonutrient called resveratrol, found naturally in “superfoods” like red wine. Like other antioxidants and phytonutrients, such as lycopene found in tomatoes or lutein found in carrots, resveratrol is a powerful compound that regenerates the body all the way at the cellular level.
Research published over the past several decades in many medical journals, including the European Journal of Food Pharmacology and American Journal of Hypertension, found that resveratroldecreases the risk ofheart disease among other common health concerns. Although he might not have known exactly how wine was able to promote better health, even Plato promoted the health perks of drinking it in moderation. He’s been quoted as saying, “Nothing more excellent or valuable than wine was ever granted by the gods to man.”
In case you’re wondering, you don’t have to be a wine drinker to benefit from resveratrol. Other sources include deeply- olored berries and real dark chocolate/cocoa. Along with helping to keep arteries clear from plaque buildup and protecting an aging heart, this phytonutrient has many other health benefits too — including reducing inflammation, potentially helping to prevent obesity and protecting cognitive health among the elderly.
What Is Resveratrol?
Resveratrol is a polyphenic bioflavonoid antioxidant that’s produced by certain plants and found in foods and drinks that are known to halt the effects of aging. Resveratrol is classified as a phytoestrogen because of its ability to interact with estrogen receptors in a positive way. Plants that produce resveratrol and other types of antioxidants actually do so partly as a protective mechanism and response to stressors within their environments, including radiation, the presence of insects or other predators, injury, and fungal infections. Today, resveratrol is believed to be one of the most potent polyphenols and strongest protectors against symptoms associated with aging and free radical damage.
Studies show that the most naturally abundant sources of resveratrol (not to mention many other protective phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals) are plants, including the skin of red grapes, red wine, raw cocoa, and dark berries, such as lingonberries, blueberries, mulberries and bilberries. Red wine is probably the best known source, mostly due to its high levels thanks to the fermentation process that turns grape juice to alcohol. During production of red wine, grape seeds and skins ferment in the grape’s juices, which have positive effects on levels and availability of resveratrol.
The benefits of resveratrol were first discovered when researchers found that yeast and other microbes, insects and animals fed resveratrol experienced an increased life span as a result. Various studies continued to confirm its amazing anti-aging benefits, demonstrated in studies conducted on fruit flies, fish, mice and nematode worms, all of which lived longer compared to control groups that were not treated with this phytonutrient.
5 Resveratrol Benefits
1. Has Anti-Aging and Anti-Cancer Effects
Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals produced during everyday bodily functions, such as eating and exercise. Free radical damage is accelerated due to poor lifestyle habits like smoking, eating an unhealthy diet, and in response to environmental pollution and toxicity. If left unchecked, free radicals can damage cells and are thought to be a cause of life-threatening diseases and earlier death. Consuming plant foods high in antioxidants and phytonutrients has been shown to offer antioxidative, anticarcinogenic and antitumor benefits that protect adults from many age-related diseases.
According to research published by the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Seville in Spain, “One of the most striking biological activities of resveratrol soundly investigated during the late years has been its cancer-chemopreventive potential. In fact, recently it has been demonstrated that it blocks the multistep process of carcinogenesis at various stages: tumor initiation, promotion, and progression.”
It’s believed the mechanisms for its cancer-protecting activities involves downregulation of the inflammatory response through inhibition of synthesis and release of pro-inflammatory mediators, among other activities.
2. Protects Cardiovascular Health
Because of its anti-inflammatory activity, resveratrol has been shown to offer protection against atherosclerosis (thickening of the arteries that cuts off blood flow), high LDL “bad cholesterol,” formation of blood clots and myocardial infraction. Consuming more has also been shown to help improve circulation and have beneficial effects on glucose and lipid metabolism in some with higher risk for metabolic syndrome.
Itadori tea, one significant source of resveratrol, has long been used in Asian countries, including Japan and China, as a traditional herbal remedy for preventing heart disease and strokes.
3. Helps Protect the Brain and Cognitive/Mental Health
Resveratrol is particularly unique as its antioxidants can cross the blood-brain barrier to protect the brain and the nervous system, unlike other antioxidants. Recent studies done by researchers at the Nutrition Research Center at Northunbria University in the U.K. showed that resveratrol noticeably increased blood flow to the brain, suggesting a considerable benefit to healthy brain function and neuroprotective effects.
This means consuming more can increase protection against cognitive/mental problems, including Alzheimer’s, dementia and others. Other study findings, such as results published in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, demonstrated that even a single infusion of resveratrol could elicit neuroprotective effects on cerebral (brain) neuronal loss and damage. This resulted from increased free radical scavenging and cerebral blood elevation due to resveratrol’s effects.
4. May Help Prevent Obesity
Findings from animal studies have found that resveratrol exerts beneficial effects on rodents fed a high-calorie diet, helping prevent fat storage and regulating insulin levels. Others research has shown that resveratrol may help reduce body weight and adiposity in obese animals, which some experts believe is due to activating the SIRT1 gene that’s believed to protect the body against the effects of obesity.
It’s not totally clear how this translates to humans consuming foods or drinks like wine and berries, but studies have found links between adults eating balanced diets that include moderate amounts of wine and healthier body weights.
5. Benefits Those with Diabetes or Prediabetes
Animal studies involving diabetic rats have demonstrated that resveratrol may be able to reduce hyperglycemia and may also possibility be of use in preventing and/or treating both obesity and diabetes. Resveratrol may be helpful for those with diabetes andprediabetes by reducing complications (like nerve damage and damage to the heart) and helping manage insulin levels. It’s known that this phytoestrogen positively affects insulin secretion and blood insulin concentrations, according to animal studies.
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