Imagine a totally incredible natural substance, shown in studies to increase lifespan, prevent and combat even severe illnesses like cancer in every stage, with a positive effect on numerous other diseases like arthritis, circulatory diseases, diabetes and multiple sclerosis and which, if that wasn’t enough, regulates fat metabolism (helps with weight loss!) and has been sensationally shown in animal studies to double endurance ability...
This short description applies to resveratrol, a substance that has only been a focus of scientific attention for the past few years, but since then has been more intensively researched and has continually led to sensational insights!
Resveratrol from a chemical perspective
The tongue-twister ‘resveratrol’ is, chemically considered, a phytoalexin, a low-molecular, antimicrobial chemical bond (from Greek: phytos = ‘plant’, alekein = ‘repel’), which has defence mechanisms that not only benefit itself but also have extraordinarily strong effect on diseases like cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and numerous autoimmune diseases.
Resveratrol from a botanical perspective
Resveratrol is classified in the family of polyphenols, secondary plant substances that have in the very recent past been able to demonstrate unforeseen positive potential effects on our health.
The original function of resveratrol is in the self-interest of the plants in which it occurs, as self-defence against parasites and fungal infections, especially in damp periods. By taking it regularly, we humans can also make use of this defence mechanism.
Resveratrol – cancer remedy and anti-ageing sensation
Resveratrol’s popularity is due to its cancer-inhibiting effect as well as a mechanism that could possibly grant us humans a much longer lifespan. Inspired by the principles of calorie restriction which have been shown in numerous studies to lengthen lifespan by activating certain genes that bring an extension of lifespan to cells and encourage the repair of our genetic code (DNA), resveratrol is able to imitate this mechanism even without a low-calorie diet.
Various studies of numerous animal species have shown a substantial life extension of up to 50 % (life extension of yeast cells by 70 %!), which is not only fascinating but also appears very promising. More recent studies on human beings were also able to confirm these effects!
Resveratrol – the discovery
Resveratrol was first discovered, identified and isolated in 1963 from Japanese knotgrass (Polygonum cuspidatum) and was also documented in red grapes in 1976.
In the following pages, you will learn the specifics of this remarkable ‘new’ natural substance which may in future play a decisive role in the prevention and treatment of numerous illnesses and in the slowdown of ageing.
Incidence and natural sources
The polyphenol ‘resveratrol’ occurs in numerous plants. It is relatively strongly represented in red grapes.
Resveratrol is present in:
- Wine grapes (especially in the skin!)
- Red wine
- Grape seeds
- Grape juice
- Peanut butter
- Japanese knotgrass
The National Cancer Institute in the United States examined many thousands of plants for anti-carcinogenic (cancer-inhibiting) ingredients and documented resveratrol in 72 different plants during this process. It occurs relatively frequently in the skin red grapes, even if only in traces. Fresh red grape juice, for example, contains 1100 µg per litre, but red wine only about 30-50mg/L.
How does resveratrol work, and what does it work against?
As is to be expected, the discovery of resveratrol for medicinal purposes is not an accomplishment of modern western medicine (as we know, this has had problems for about 150 years in discovering itself, but that is not the subject of the discussion here...); rather, resveratrol is an ingredient in a medicinal plant, botanically named ‘Polygonum cuspidatum’, traditionally used in China and Japan for centuries for circulatory disorders, fungal infestations and inflammations, among other ailments.
General effects of resveratrol
The effects of resveratrol can generally be described as:
- cardioprotective/circulatory system-stimulating,
- anti-atherogenic (protects against atherosclerosis and removes existing vascular calcification),
- cholesterol reducing,
- blood pressure lowering,
- counteracting blood clotting,
- life extending,
- immune system strengthening,
- AMP kinase activating,
- stimulates fat metabolism,
- antioxidative (especially against peroxyl radicals),
- anti-diabetic (improves insulin sensitivity).
Antioxidative effect – effect on free radicals
Our bodies are attacked daily by free radicals (stress, environmental influences etc.), which leads to ageing and numerous diseases, including cancer! It is among the most important methods available to humans to protect as best as possible against these free radicals. This defence can occur solely via corresponding antioxidants that are primarily components of fruits and vegetables.
Cancer researchers agree that free radicals play a role in all possible phases of cancer development and encourage cancer growth. Resveratrol is, alongside vitamin C, vitamin E, OPC, Q10, beta carotene, selenium and others, among these antioxidants with the special feature that it is both water-soluble and fat-soluble and can carry out its pronounced antioxidative defence in all of our bodily cells. Just like vitamin C and OPC, resveratrol crosses the blood-brain barrier and carries out its antioxidative work on brain cells, too, protecting them from ageing, Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Anti-tumour, anti-carcinogenic effects of resveratrol
The anti-tumour/cancer-defending effects are explained by the antioxidative, anti-inflammatory apoptosis induction, the inhibition of prostate glands, the decrease of nitric oxide synthase as well as the chemo-sensitising effect. You can learn more about this in the section ‘Resveratrol and cancer’.
Resveratrol has an anti-inflammatory effect by inhibiting both key enzymes for inflammation reactions, cyclooxigenase2 (COX-2) and intrinsic nitrogen monoxide synthesase (iNOS).
The cholesterol-lowering effect results from the fat-metabolism-regulating effect. Resveratrol lowers the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and raises the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol.
Fat metabolism regulating effect
In animal studies, mice were given a fat-rich diet that under normal circumstances would have led to weight gain. The simultaneous administration of resveratrol was able to significantly reduce weight gain.
Resveratrol hinders blood clotting
Resveratrol hinders the agglomeration of blood platelets and thus prevents blood clotting, which can lead to thrombosis, heart attack and stroke.
Immune system strengthening effect of resveratrol
Resveratrol is a part of the immune system of plants which protects in this way against bacteria, viruses, fungi as well as from environmental influences like UV radiation and ozone stress. Humans can make use of this originally very self-interested system via the targeted intake of resveratrol in order to protect themselves from the same stresses. Researchers have determined that the stronger the stresses in the region in which the grapevines grow, the higher the proportion of resveratrol in the respective type of wine.