Many people know about resveratrol due to its association with red wine, something that’s been in the headlines frequently in recent years, as a powerful antioxidant that can help lower cholesterol and improve heart health. But this plant compound can not only be found in the red grapes that make wine but in other fruits, vegetables, and even cocoa. It also comes in supplement form.
Resveratrol came to the attention of scientists in the mid-1990s, and ever since it’s been hyped by supplement manufacturers and closely examined by researchers to be an anti-cancer agent, phytoestrogen and antioxidant, sometimes referred to as “The French Paradox in a bottle,” because of the tendency for the French to have outstanding cardiovascular health despite a generally poor diet and love for wine.
Resveratrol is unique among antioxidants as it can cross the blood-brain barrier to help protect your brain and nervous system, and some experts say the science surrounding it is so compelling, it’s appearing like it may be a “modern-day fountain of youth.”
To help you understand it better, we’ve put this total guide to resveratrol together to explain its many benefits, the food sources it can be found in, and what you should know about resveratrol supplements.
9 Benefits of Resveratrol
1. It is anti-aging
There’s a reason some are under the impression that resveratrol is emerging as a real-life fountain of youth. Its ability to extend lifespan has become a focus of much research, and there’s been quite a bit of evidence revealed that it activates certain genes that help battle diseases associated with aging. The compound helps to neutralize free radicals that are produced during day-to-day body processes like eating and physical activity. Free radical damage increases when one has poor lifestyle habits such as a generally unhealthy diet and smoking cigarettes, which, if left unchecked can damage cells and result in serious life-threatening diseases and a shorter lifespan. Consuming foods with resveratrol and others that contain a high level of phytonutrients and antioxidants have been shown in numerous studies to provide anti-tumor, anticarcinogenic and antioxidative protection from many diseases typically related to aging.
2. It helps protect against certain cancers
Research has shown that resveratrol can protect against liver cancer and ongoing research is investigating how it might prevent liver metastasis as well. In animal studies, it’s shown promise in treating skin cancer as well as battling esophageal cancer.
In a 2005 study published by the University of Seville’s Department of Pharmacology in Spain, researchers noted. “One of the most striking biological activities of resveratrol soundly investigated during the late years has been its cancer chemopreventive potential. In fact, recently it has been demonstrated that it blocks the multistep process of carcinogenesis at various stages: tumor initiation, promotion, and progression.”
3. Delays or prevents age-related cognitive decline
A number of studies have suggested that drinking red wine may slow cognitive decline, likely due at least in part to resveratrol’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Researchers say that it appears to interfere with beta-amyloids, protein fragments that are critical to forming plaques that are common in Alzheimer’s disease. As noted, resveratrol is unique among antioxidants due to its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier to protect both the nervous system and the brain, unlike other antioxidants. Studies out of Northumbria University’s Nutrition Research Center in the United Kingdom demonstrated that the compound noticeably improved blood flow to the brain, which the experts say suggests a significant benefit for healthy brain functioning as well as neuroprotective effects, which means that in addition to lowering one’s Alzheimer’s risk, can offer protection against dementia and other cognitive problems.
4. Relieving joint pain
Nearly 23% of American adults have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This common affliction can be extremely painful and even lead to the loss of mobility, but resveratrol, when taken as a supplement has shown promise for arthritis sufferers as it may help protect cartilage from deteriorating, which can cause joint pain. Some studies have also suggested that it may prevent joint damage as well as lower inflammation – chronic inflammation has a negative effect on the body and has been linked to many chronic diseases including arthritis.
5. Supporting heart health
Thanks to its powerful antioxidant properties, resveratrol has also shown promise for lowering high blood pressure as when taken in high doses it’s been found to help decrease pressure on the artery walls. When blood pressure is high, it’s a risk factor for heart disease. In addition, resveratrol’s anti-inflammatory properties help to protect one against atherosclerosis, a condition in which the arteries thicken and cut off blood flow. It also helps to improve LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, myocardial infarction and blood clot formation, all of which supports heart health.
Multiple studies have suggested that taking a resveratrol supplement can improve blood cholesterol levels, including 2016 research on mice. After the animals were fed a diet that was high in polyunsaturated fat and protein, along with resveratrol supplements, researchers discovered that their average total cholesterol and body weight was reduced, while their HDL, or “good,” cholesterol levels increased.
6. Preventing obesity
You may have taken note that the mice in the recent study focused on cholesterol also lost weight. There has been other research that has found this effect of resveratrol as well, including a 2010 Polish study that showed it helped prevent fat storage in rodents fed a high-calorie diet that was given the compound. Other studies have found that resveratrol may help protect against becoming obese, possibly due to the activation of a gene known as SIRT1.
7. Clearing up acne
Resveratrol has also been shown to have positive results in treating acne in a number of scientific studies, including one out of Naples, Italy and another from the University of California at Los Angeles. The researchers demonstrated how the antioxidant works to inhibit the growth of the bacteria that causes acne. When they applied the resveratrol topically in a gel to a strain of acne-causing bacteria, they found it inhibited the growth of pimple-producing bugs for a sustained amount of time. When the researchers combined it with benzoyl peroxide, the well-known acne-fighting ingredient, it lowered the bacterial count more effectively than either one on its own.
8. Controlling diabetes and prediabetes
Research has found that resveratrol provides a number of benefits for those who have prediabetes or full-blown diabetes in animal studies, including the ability to increase insulin sensitivity and prevent diabetes complications. The experts believe it may be due to the compound’s ability to stop a specific enzyme from converting glucose into sorbitol, a sugar alcohol. If too much sorbitol is allowed to build up in those with diabetes, it can result in oxidative stress damage. Studies have found that resveratrol may be able to reduce hyperglycemia and potentially event prevent or treat diabetes. It may also help by decreasing complications such as heart damage and nerve damage, as well as help one to manage insulin levels.
9. Fighting flu and herpes virus infections
According to the results of a study out of the Institute of Neurobiology and Molecular Medicine of the Italian Research Council in Rome, resveratrol has the ability to block the influenza A virus. Mice were given a dose of flu virus that had a fatality rate of 80% within 10 days, and then an hour later, half were given resveratrol and half a placebo. Within 10 days, 80% of the mice who’d been treated with the placebo had died, but just 40% of the mice who’d been given resveratrol were dead. They were also found to have 98% lower levels of the virus in their lungs.
Resveratrol inhibits the replication of Herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 as well, likely by targeting an early event in the replication cycle of the virus, as shown in a number of studies.
The Best Sources of Resveratrol
Grapes and red wine. Grapes are the top food source of resveratrol, although muscadine grapes are said to have the highest concentration of the compound in nature, due to their extra thick skins and multiple seeds where resveratrol is concentrated. Not surprisingly, because red wine is made from grapes, it’s also found in abundance in that popular beverage as well. Because resveratrol is highly soluble in alcohol, that means the body actually absorbs more of it from red wine than any other source. While white wine does contain some resveratrol, it’s in much lower amounts as the skins of the grapes are removed earlier in the winemaking process.
Blueberries. While the amount of resveratrol in blueberries is less than 10 percent of that of grapes, according to a 2003 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, blueberries are one of the most nutritious berries you can consume, as one of the highest antioxidant foods on the planet. They contain lutein, gallic acid, zeaxanthin, and fiber as well as being an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin C, and manganese.
Lingonberries. Lingonberries while not a common berry, are said to contain a similar amount of resveratrol as what’s found in grapes. It topped the list for resveratrol content among a sample of berries tested in research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, demonstrating 5.9 micrograms per gram of dried fruit, comparing favorably to red grapes, which contained 6.5 micrograms per gram.
Peanuts. In addition to offering healthy fats and protein, one cup of peanut butter offers as much resveratrol as a 5-ounce glass of some red wines, reports Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute.
Dark chocolate. The good news for chocolate lovers is that foods containing cocoa have a significant amount of resveratrol. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed that the levels of resveratrol found in cocoa and chocolate products are second to red wine among known sources of resveratrol and forms yet another important link between the antioxidants found in cocoa and dark chocolate to other foods. Products from six categories were tested for the level of resveratrol, including cocoa powder, baking chocolate, dark chocolate, semi-sweet baking chips, milk chocolate and chocolate syrup. Gram for gram, cocoa powder had the highest average amount of resveratrol, followed by baking chocolates, dark chocolates, semi-sweet chips, milk chocolate and then chocolate syrup.
How To Choose The Right Resveratrol Supplements
In addition to grapes, wine, and the other foods mentioned, resveratrol supplements are available as well, but it’s important to make sure you to look for a high-quality supplement, otherwise, you could end up with little benefits along with a lighter wallet. Here is what you should look for:
Muscadine grapes. Search for a resveratrol supplement that’s made from muscadine grapes and uses the whole grape skins and seeds, as that’s where the majority of the benefits are concentrated.
Be aware that cheaper is not necessarily better. If it’s very cheap, it’s likely to be made from low-purity trans-resveratrol which contains a high amount of an unwanted substance known as emodin which can act as a laxative, causing intestinal distress and stomach cramps, not to mention providing little in the way of benefits.
Read ingredient labels very carefully, and ask lots of questions. Avoid supplements with an ingredient label that indicates “proprietary blend” as that product likely contains inferior ingredients, and if there is no ingredient label at all, it’s best to avoid it altogether. Many products contain caffeine and other supplements, designed to help you lose weight or increase stamina – if you’re sensitive to these ingredients or find them unnecessary, look for something else.
Endorsements. If the company selling the resveratrol product claims it is endorsed by Oprah or Dr. Oz, select a different brand. Though Dr. Oz has discussed benefits of resveratrol he has not endorsed a specific product. An endorsement by either celebrity indicates the company may lack honesty and integrity. It’s important to buy from a reputable company that offers a no risk money back guarantee, as the FDA does not regulate supplements.
The 4 Best Resveratrol Supplements
The below four supplements all meet the above criteria and are backed up by dozens, or even hundreds, of positive five star reviews on Amazon.
- Life Extension Optimized Resveratrol
- Puritan’s Pride Resveratrol 250 mg
- Country Life Resveratrol Plus
- BRI Nutrition Resveratrol 1200 mg