Within the last decade, resveratrol—a polyphenol found in red wine—has stormed into the nutritional supplement arena with a reception befitting a superstar. Part of this is because for years we’ve heard how red wine—a staple of the French diet—is partly why the French have a low rate of heart disease, despite their reputation for eating rich, high-sugar, and high-fat foods.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? What those reports don’t tell you, though, is the French also have the highest rate of liver cirrhosis in the world! While red wine, or rather the red grape, has some good things going for it because of resveratrol, I encourage you to only drink it in moderation. A glass of wine three or four days per week is the limit.
What is Resveratrol?
Resveratrol is a flavonoid antioxidant present in grape skins and red grape juice. It is indeed an exciting and promising antioxidant—and I’m firmly convinced it’s a key to better heart health and longevity!
In plants, resveratrol is naturally synthesized as a defense mechanism to protect against invading fungi. While you can get limited amounts from red wine, you can get a much more concentrated form of it by taking a resveratrol supplement.
How the Benefits of Resveratrol Help Your Heart
Resveratrol works its heart-support “magic” in two ways:
- Protecting the endothelium, the delicate inner layer of your arteries, from oxidative free radical damage.
- Helping to protect the production of nitric oxide, the critical chemical produced by the endothelium that keeps blood vessels optimally dilated.
What also impressed me as a cardiologist was research showing resveratrol helps to keep your blood flowing as it should. In an Australian study of overweight hypertensive men and post-menopausal women, researchers monitored resveratrol’s effect on the brachial artery, the major artery of the upper arm. Impaired blood flow in this vessel is linked to risk factors such as obesity and hypertension.
After consuming a highly bioactive form of resveratrol, participants demonstrated a significant and rapid increase in blood flow within the hour.
But heart health is just a tip of the iceberg. To date there have now been more than 4,000 studies on the health benefits of resveratrol, showing that it helps to protect your entire body…
Health Benefits of Resveratrol: The Proof Is in the Research
Researchers at Harvard University found that huge amounts of resveratrol significantly increased the health, vitality, and lifespan of obese mice—despite them being fed an unhealthy, high-fat diet. This extract also appeared to extend the life of normal mice.
Plus, the researchers found that mice given resveratrol had a lower rate of diabetes, liver problems, and other fat-related disorders. In fact, they discovered that the organs of the mice looked normal even though they shouldn’t have. This prompted the suggestion that mammals given ultra-high doses of resveratrol might be able to reap the benefits of cutting calories, without actually doing it.
You may wonder how much resveratrol the long-living mice received. Good question. The answer: The equivalent of an adult human drinking a hundred bottles of wine a day! Obviously, I would never recommend such a high intake of any type of alcohol, which is why I recommend daily resveratrol supplementation.
Plus, research on yeast, worms, and fruit flies has suggested resveratrol has anti-aging effects:
- Protecting against free radical damage to the endothelial lining of arteries in atherosclerosis.
- Improving cellular energy production and aerobic capacity.
- Protecting fragile, leaky blood vessels involved in age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.
How Much Resveratrol Should You Take?
We still have much more to learn about the benefits and limitations of resveratrol supplementation for humans. For now, a good starting point is 30 mg of resveratrol per day in supplement form, and I personally do not exceed 250 mg a daily.