Resveratrol: A Powerful Plant Nutrient

There are hundreds of thousands of phytonutrients. Have you eaten whole food with resveratrol? Find out what foods contain resveratrol and its benefits.

You’ve probably heard of phytonutrients like beta-carotene, but have you heard of resveratrol? (Pronounced res-vare-eh-trahl.)

Resveratrol is a stilbene belonging to the phytonutrient family polyphenols. Phytonutrients are nutrients produced by plants to defend themselves against disease and pathogens. To read more about how they benefit us, check out our article all about phytochemicals.

First things first, we need to talk about just how you should get resveratrol. Nutrients—including vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals—can often be isolated or synthetic. These don’t even come close to natural nutrients in their whole food state; they are not the same. We believe in the synergistic effect of all phytonutrients.  Read our helpful resource about how they are different and why natural nutrients, as opposed to synthetics or isolates, are much safer and more beneficial.

Resveratrol in particular is a biologically active compound synthesized by plants undergoing infectious or ionizing radiation, mechanical injury, ultraviolet irradiation, and fungal attacks. It has antioxidant properties and other health benefits which we can receive by eating plant foods that contain it. It has been detected in more than seventy plant species. There are two forms of it: cis- and trans-resveratrol. Resveratrol can be found in red grapes, eucalyptus, spruce, blueberries, mulberries, peanuts, and giant knotweed.

Resveratrol has antioxidant properties like most phytonutrients, though not as potent as those of epicatechin and quercetin. Consuming resveratrol through its plant food sources can also help combat cancer, diabetes, heart issues, toxins, and early mortality.

Benefits

Resveratrol’s antioxidant properties come from the fact that it suppresses oxidative damage caused by heavy metal cadmium, reduces damage from nitrite radicals to endothelial cells, and protects skin cells from ultraviolet radiation. Its effects against oxidative damage also suggest resveratrol may benefit diabetes (high glucose levels cause oxidative damage).

Antioxidant activity also affects gene transcription of genes responsible for redox metabolism (a metabolic pathway that shows the series of oxidation/reduction activities involved in removal of oxidative radicals) and inhibits proliferation of cancer cells. In addition, resveratrol has been shown to protect cells from hydrogen peroxide-induced oxidative stress. So, resveratrol plays a part in cellular defense due to its antioxidant activities.

Resveratrol also combats cancer by reducing tumor-promoting activity by preventing an enzyme that converts arachidonic acid to substances that promote tumor growth. It may be promising as a candidate for cancer prevention and treatment. Resveratrol has shown the ability to inhibit all stages of carcinogenesis in many in vitro and in vivo studies. For instance, resveratrol has had apoptotic and antiproliferative effects (which inhibit cell growth) on human cervical carcinoma by inducing cell shrinkage in HeLa cells (an immortal human line of cells) and apoptosis (cell death).

Furthermore, resveratrol has shown potential in acting as a preventive and therapeutic agent against breast cancer. It has been shown to reverse drug resistance in in vitro cell systems by sensitizing tumor cells to drug-mediated effects along with other chemotherapeutic drugs. It can also enhance sensitivity of pancreatic cancer cells to gemcitabine therapy (a type of chemotherapy). Many other studies have demonstrated such preventive anticancer activity in colon, cervical, prostate, breast, and lungs.

Resveratrol can also maintain heart health. It has been shown to protect the heart and blood vessels by scavenging harmful oxidants and preventing endothelial cell death. It can also reduce risk of atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the arteries that obstructs blood flow) by reducing platelet aggregation (blood clotting). In mice, resveratrol increased the lifespan of those on a high calorie diet.

The cardioprotective effects of resveratrol have also been shown in diabetic rats by preserving the function of cardiac stem cell compartments and mature cardiac cells, as well as by reducing inflammation and unfavorable ventricular remodeling of the diabetic heart. It also had a beneficial effect in heart failure by improving left ventricle function, decreased cardiac hypertrophy, contractile dysfunction and remodeling, and more.

Moreover, resveratrol may help improve circulatory function. According to Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, poor circulation contributes to the development of various lifestyle diseases such as cardiovascular disease, inflammatory disease, and dementia. For healthy circulation, you need to have a healthy endothelium. Abnormal endothelial function can “reduce vasodilator responsiveness, result in abnormal and chronic vasoconstriction, and increase nonselective capillary permeability, platelet adhesion and aggregation, inflammation, and arterial remodeling.” Resveratrol can help as it is a vasoactive nutrient with potential to enhance arterial health, specifically regarding arterial vasodilation. This may extend to cerebral vasculature as well, and improved cerebral endothelial function could improve cognitive performance.

Resveratrol has neuroprotective properties, too. It plays a role in different neurodegenerative impairments like Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s diseases; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; and alcohol-induced disorders. Resveratrol decreases cholinergic neurotransmission, brain-derived neurotrophic factor expression, oxidative stress, neuronal cell death, and more. It improved motor abilities in rats.

Resveratrol also has antitoxic effects. It has reversed damages caused by certain chemotherapeutic drugs, reduced brain damage, and reduced oxidative liver damage during ethanol intoxication. In rats, it has reduced kidney damage. Additionally, resveratrol can prevent growth of certain pathogenic microorganisms.

“Epidemiological studies have suggested that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is associated with health benefits including protection against kidney disease and renal cancer,” according to Nutrients. “Resveratrol, a polyphenol found in grapes and berries, has been reported to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, hepatoprotective, neuroprotective, and anti-cancer properties.”

Resveratrol might also benefit eye health. Handbook of Nutrition, Diet, and the Eye explains that resveratrol can target intracellular molecules and pathways involved in the onset and progression of eye diseases and could prevent eye diseases including age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

Use

The pharmaceutical industry has struggled with resveratrol’s application due to its potential adverse effects. Some studies observed that it can behave as a pro-oxidizing agent, which could cause pathology of several diseases. Dual effects were observed: lower doses increased cell numbers, whereas higher concentrations reduced cell number and increased cell death. Synthetic or isolated forms were likely used in the studies, however. Adverse effects would be absent if resveratrol was consumed in its whole food form.

Drugs come with side effects. Doses of resveratrol over 2.5 g a day can come with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. However, in healthy patients, taking up to 5 g of resveratrol a day long term was concluded to be safe. In addition, resveratrol taken as a drug can interact with other medications.

You can receive resveratrol in its whole, natural form by eating red grapes, cocoa, berries of the Vaccinium species, and peanuts. Getting nutrients through whole food is always better.

The Last Bite

Many studies have observed the beneficial effects of the phytonutrient resveratrol on health. These effects include cardioprotection, anticancer, enhanced cognitive function, and antioxidant activity, among others. In studies, resveratrol is usually given in doses which have shown some side effects, as does any drug. On the other hand, consuming resveratrol by eating the whole plant foods that contain it ensures that you’re receiving it in a stable, balanced, safe, and all-natural form. This is possible due to the combination of all the foods’ phytonutrients working together.

Sources