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Resveratrol

Other name(s):

3,5,4'-trihydroxy-trans-stilbene, cis-resveratrol, trans-3,5,4'-trihydroxystilbene, trans-resveratrol

General description:

Photo pf red grapes and a bottle of wineResveratrol is found in grapes and grape products, including juice and wine. It is produced in abundance by the grape plant and appears to be used by the plant as an antifungal and antibacterial agent. White grapes contain smaller amounts of both resveratrol and proanthocyanidins.

Resveratrol has a long herbal history that includes the treatment of heart disorders. The current view that a glass of red wine a day may have medical benefits is in part based on the high levels of resveratrol in red wine.

Medically valid uses:

There are two major claims made concerning resveratrol.

Resveratrol is a cancer-preventive agent. Specifically, resveratrol is believed to have significant chemopreventive properties against breast cancer. Resveratrol appears to interfere in the development of cancer in all three of its major stages:

  • Tumor initiation: Resveratrol was demonstrated (using the Ames test) to have antimutagenic properties. Resveratrol has moderate antioxidant activity. These are important in preventing malignant changes in normal cells. There is direct evidence that in mice resveratrol inhibits the formation of early breast cancer changes caused by cancer-inducing chemicals.

  • Tumor promotion: Resveratrol has anti-inflammatory effects, inhibits cyclooxygenase-1 and cyclooxygenase-2, and has a hydroperoxidase function, all of which are considered important for tumor antipromotion activity.

  • Tumor progression: Resveratrol inhibits ribonucleotide reductase and DNA synthesis in mammalian cell cultures. Interference with these two enzymes slows or stops cell proliferation in some tumors.

Most of the research demonstrating resveratrol's anti-cancer effects has been on breast cancer. Using human breast cancer cell cultures, resveratrol has been shown to have anti-cancer effects against both estrogen-dependent and non-estrogen-dependent malignant cells.

Resveratrol is also believed to reduce the incidence of heart disease, a claim that is backed by multiple studies. Resveratrol is thought to have a protective effect against heart disease through the following mechanisms:

  • Resveratrol inhibits the synthesis of thromboxane in platelets. Thromboxane makes platelets aggregate (form clumps), which may lead to the formation of clots in narrow coronary arteries. In addition, thromboxane is a potent vasoconstrictor, causing small arterioles to narrow even further.

  • Resveratrol also moderates the synthesis and secretion of lipoproteins and thus may have a preventive effect on the development of atherosclerosis.

  • Resveratrol has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antifungal and antibacterial properties.

Polydatin, a closely related stilbene, has been shown to protect heart muscle cells injured by insufficient oxygen and glucose. Polydatin also inhibits platelet aggregation, which may protect against heart attack.

Dosing format:

Although a small amount of alcohol (particularly red wine) can be beneficial, avoid consuming large amounts. Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should not consume alcohol.

Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should consult a physician before taking any dietary supplements.

Side effects, toxicity and interactions:

There are no known side effects or significant food or drug interactions associated with resveratrol.

Additional information:

Click here for a list of reputable websites with general information on nutrition.