Ever heard of the “French Paradox”? It refers to the fact that despite their high-fat diet, the French have a surprisingly low risk of heart disease. The reason? There are many theories, but a highly popular one is their love for red wine.
‘Resveratrol’ is a compound found in the skin and seed of grapes (that’s why white wine, made mostly from the flesh of grapes, contains very small amounts of resveratrol). While most people get this nutrient in their diet primarily through their red wine, it’s also found in berries, peanuts and cocoa.1 We’ve already begun to explore the fascinating health benefits of natural pigments called phytonutrients, in our earlier posts of the ‘Eat the Rainbow’ series. This one is all about resveratrol, which (along with flavonoids) gives purple-red foods their striking colour.2 Here’s looking at how it affects us!
Skin and Ageing
Resveratrol can reduce the effects of ageing on our body, like wrinkles and fine lines, because of its antioxidant and immunity-boosting properties. However, there’s even more to its anti-ageing potential! There are certain proteins called ‘sirtuins’, which have been given the title of “proteins of longevity” because they’re believed to increase the survival and stress-resistance of cells. Resveratrol happens to a powerful activator of this protein!3 Apart from this, resveratrol is also being investigated as a regulator of the skin pigment, melanin, for problems related to pigmentation.4
When we moderate our calorie intake, we see an overall improvement in health. Scientists believe that resveratrol may have a similar effect on the body.2, 3 Although there is no solid evidence to support it yet, there seems to be a very large overlap between the effects of calorie-restricted diets and resveratrol treatment. This includes disease-protection from risk factors of diabetes, cancer, heart disease and nerve damage.3, 5 Other than its direct effects, weight loss may also be promoted indirectly because it increases muscle endurance during exercise.6
Resveratrol and Cancer
Adding to the fact that resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant, it also boosts the enzymes that detoxify the body, getting rid of pollutants and harmful chemicals. All of this means that resveratrol reduces the damage caused by free radicals on our DNA, subsequently preventing mutations that cause cancer.1-3 Even from a cure perspective, some studies suggest that resveratrol can limit the growth and spread of cancer. However, the research of how it interacts with chemotherapy drugs is still underway.
Resveratrol and the Heart
1] Resveratrol can reduce blood pressure and the resulting pressure on the heart.3
2] It also reduces the formation of blood clots, which block blood vessels.1
3] When the hormone ‘oestrogen’ begins to decline in postmenopausal women, this leads to heart disease and osteoporosis. There’s a strong possibility that resveratrol can mimic the effects of ‘oestrogen’, although a firm connection hasn’t been made as yet.3 In view of these cardio-protective benefits, it’s no wonder that wine and grape extracts have been shown to suppress atherosclerosis, the condition where blood vessels are blocked.3, 7
Beyond these effects, resveratrol shows great promise against many leading causes of disease, with scientists from around the world looking into its use for a bunch of treatments.Knowing what we do now, we’d still do really well to add some purples to our diet through healthy (and non-alcoholic) ways – although we needn’t say no to the occasional glass of Bordeaux!
1. Frémont L. Life Sciences 2000, 66(8): 663-673.
2. Prakash D & Sharma G. Phytochemicals of Nutraceutical Importance. CABI, 2014.
3. Baur JA & Sinclair DA. Nat Rev Drug Discov 2006, 5(6): 493-506.
4. Lee TH, et al. Biomolecules & Therapeutics 2014, 22(1): 35-40.
5. Howitz KT, et al. Nature 2003, 425(6954): 191-196.
6. Dirks Naylor AJ. Life Sciences 2009, 84(19–20): 637-640.
7. Lekakis J, et al. Eur J Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil 2005, 12(6): 596-600.