Science shows that resveratrol is pushing its way to the top of the buzz-worthy ingredient list. It’s been shown to help treat everything from heart disease to diabetes as well as naturally turn back the clock on skin. Here’s why you’ll want to harness resveratrol’s impressive health and beauty benefits. Right. Now.
So, what is this fancy sounding R-word exactly? “Resveratrol is a very potent polyphenolicantioxidant,” says Jeffrey Morrison, MD, founder of the Morrison Center for Integrative Medicine in New York City. And while it’s most famous for its ties to red wine, there are actually many other natural sources of the antioxidant powerhouse including many of your go-to foods, as well as around 70 plant species.
Along with grapes (and therefore the vino connection), it’s found in several kinds of berries such as mulberries, blueberries and cranberries along with peanuts and dark chocolate. “It concentrates in the skin of red grapes and other plants (like Japanese Knotweed) to protect the plant from ultraviolet light, as well as fungal infections and environmental stress,” explains Dr. Morrison. “So, essentially, the more the plant needs to struggle, the higher the concentration of resveratrol.”
And there are plenty of research-backed reasons to add resveratrol to your diet. “You’re getting potent antioxidant protection to help your body manage many different types of environmental and self-induced stress from the inside out,” explains Dr. Morrison. “Resveratrol works to directly bind free radicals [damaging atoms or molecules with one or more unpaired electrons] and enhance the body’s ability to produce our own antioxidants including glutathione, superoxide dismutase and catalase.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should down Cabernet every night to get your resveratrol fill. Nor is eating the amount of, say, berries needed to reap its antioxidant capabilities realistic. Dr. Morrison says that opting for a supplement that contains an extract of trans-resveratrol from Japanese knotweed (aka polygonum cuspidatum root) can help you reach a resveratrol-rich level. He suggests 150 milligrams daily for three weeks on and one week off, to maintain an effective level within the body.
Along with stellar antioxidant powers, resveratrol has been shown to help fight cardiovascular disease and diabetes. A study published in the journal Nitric Oxide: Biology and Chemistry, states that resveratrol helps stimulate the production of nitric oxide as well as lowers oxidative stress and inflammation and platelet aggregation, all of which are crucial to heart health. In a 2013 study in Cell & Bioscience, resveratrol showcased anti-diabetic capabilities because it’s able to regenerate insulin-producing cells.
Several studies also show that resveratrol may have anti-cancer powers, including recent research that shows it has a unique ability to cause the degradation of cancer cells specifically, while protecting cancer-free cells. Research also shows its amazing anti-inflammatory characteristics, and reducing inflammation is possibly the single best thing you can do to stay healthy and young.
Yet another interesting health aspect of resveratrol: fat burning. According to recent research, resveratrol lowers triglyceride levels, and further testing is being done to see what role it can have in not only reducing fat but also treating obesity.
Dermatologists are excited about resveratrol’s outstanding ability to keep skin young and firm. As for seeing its benefits skin deep, it’s best to apply resveratrol right from the bottle. “Eating resveratrol in whole foods is always a good idea, but how much of it actually gets into the skin remains a question,” says Patricia Farris, MD, a dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Tulane University Medical Center in New Orleans.
“Like when taken internally, when applied to skin, resveratrol scavenges free radicals and it also stimulates the body to increase production of its own antioxidants,” explains Daniel H. McDaniel, MD, a dermatologist in Virginia Beach, Virginia. “So it protects and defends cells from external environmental damage as well as internally generated free radicals and protects cellular mitochondria, which are the powerhouse of the cells, as well as help to stimulate growth of new mitochondria.”
How can resveratrol kick start the body’s natural protective mechanism? What makes it so unique is the effect it has on a crucial regulator of the body’s response to oxidative stress, referred to as the NRF-2 pathway. “When NRF-2 is activated by resveratrol, the body begins to make more of its own natural antioxidants,” explains Dr. Farris. “This is an added benefit that resveratrol provides, which differentiates it from other antioxidants.”
And it’s because of resveratrol’s unique antioxidant abilities—stimulating skin’s inherent internal protection— that unlike classic free radical fighting treatments (the likes of vitamin C and E), experts are looking at it as a p.m., not a.m., skin treatment. “Resveratrol is not stable when exposed to ultraviolet light, and it becomes much less active,” says Dr. McDaniel. “By applying topical resveratrol at night, it helps to avoid the loss of potency that might be induced by UV light during the daytime, enhancing its repair effects.”
The other key aspect: It coincides with the body’s natural repair system, too. “The entire body goes into repair mode at night. During the day the skin is subjected to environmental aggressors from sunlight, to pollution and stress,” explains Dr. Farris. “At night, resveratrol helps neutralize damaging oxidative stress and improves the skin’s natural healing process by boosting natural antioxidants.”
A big roadblock to topical resveratrol has been stabilizing the active ingredient so it stays potent, and penetration—getting it into skin where it can start to have its superb anti-aging effects. Researchers at Skinceuticals have formulated a way to drive resveratrol into the skin with their latest innovation: Skinceuticals Resveratrol BE, $145, new this month.
This ultra-soft and fast-absorbing gel, packed with resveratrol derived from the knotweed plant (“Which has the highest concentration of resveratrol compared to any natural source,” explains Dr. Farris.), is also paired with two other mega antioxidants: baicalin (from the baikal skullcap plant) and vitamin E.
When used at night, the innovative product enhances skin’s self-repair and defends against new damage—and the results are cumulative. Internal clinical testing showed that after 12 weeks, skin density increased 18.9 percent, and there was an 18 percent boost in smoothness, nearly 12 percent increase in elasticity and 11 percent boost in firmness.
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