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Grapeful Health: The Facts About Resveratrol

By: Corinna Underwood - Updated: 2 Jul 2013 | comments*Discuss
 
Resveratrol Grapes Grape Extract Grape

For some time now grape seed extract has been known to strengthen and repair connective tissue, and promote enzyme activity, but grapes are currently a hot topic in the medical world because of a new compound. Its name is resveratrol. This substance is one of a group of compounds (called phytoalexins) that sudden environmental changes, such as bad storms, cause to take place within certain plants.

The most abundant sources of resveratrol are Vitis vinifera, labrusca, and muscadine grapes, which are used to make wines. Although it is present in the vines, roots, and stalks of the plants, the highest concentration is found in the in the skin of the grape, which contains 50-100 micrograms per gram. Since the manufacturing process of red wine includes prolonged contact with grape skins, red wine contains far higher amounts of resveratrol than white wine. Resveratrol, as well as the other polyphenols in wine, is thought to account in large part for the so-called French Paradox - the finding that the rate of coronary heart disease mortality in France is lower than observed in other industrialized countries with a similar risk factor.

Anti-aging

Because of its anti-oxidant properties resveratrol may be able to slow down or reduce the effects of aging. The presence of free radicals in our system has for sometime been linked to the aging process. Free radicals are single atoms or atom clusters with an odd (unpaired) number of electrons. This means they are volatile, their unpaired electron causes free radicals to collide with other molecules, hijacking them and snatching an electron. Once inside the cell, they cause mutations in the DNA. This process continues in a massive chain reaction. Anti-oxidants fight and destroy free radicals that accumulate in our bodies working to both slow down and repair free-radical damage.

Cardio-vascular Protection

Resveratrol is already well known for its cardio-vascular protective benefits. It helps to decrease platelet aggregation, and reduces serum lipids. Controlled clinical studies suggest that resveratrol rich diets result in reduced cardiovascular disease risk. One of the serious complications of free radical damage is hardening and thickening of arteries; creating a vicious cycle of radicals, artery damage, and narrowing due to scar tissue, which in turn, promotes more free radical activity and more damage. Resveratrol's antioxidant action helps stop free radical damage and opens the arteries by enhancing nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a gas that enables smooth muscles to relax. This relaxation of the smooth muscle also occurs in the walls of the blood vessels and allows blood to flow smoothly through the vessel.

Resveratrol has been shown to help lower bad cholesterol (LDL), and, therefore, may be a potent nutrient in preventing cardiovascular disease. It has also shown to reduce the clumping of platelets. Thus, such conditions as atherosclerosis and heart attacks, which are often caused by arterial blockages, may potentially be reduced by this potent substance.

Cancer

Current studies on animals have also shown that resveratrol is effective during all three phases of the cancer process: initiation, promotion and progression. Resveratrol has demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects and halted the activity of the cyclooxygenase and hydroperoxidase enzymes (chemicals which promote cancer cell growth). In addition, resveratrol was also not only able to reduce development of leukaemia cells, which indicates that this compound may also depress the progression phase of cancer. Recently, resveratrol has also been show to help the body fight cancer cells during chemotherapy treatment. Finally, resveratrol was shown to inhibit the development of tumours in animal mammary glands, which may lead to the development of a treatment for breast cancer in the not so distant future.

More research

There is clearly still a need for more research. At the moment little is known about the absorption and elimination of resveratrol, or its effects on the liver. Current research on resveratrol has focused on its short-term effects and has been dominated by in vitro studies on non-human models. Finally, its main dietary source is red wine. Not only is its concentration in wine extremely variable, but recommending increased consumption of red wine to boost resveratrol intake could certainly do more harm than good. However, resveratrol supplements are available. There is no RDA (recommended daily allowance) set for resveratrol. Some experts advocate a sensible dose of around 30 to 50 mgs. No side effects have been reported with the use of resveratrol. At the time of writing, there were no well-known drug interactions with resveratrol.

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