Benefits of Resveratrol: Is it the secret to longevity?

| | ,

Are you wondering about the benefits of Resveratrol? And are you also wondering if you are doing all that you can to live a long, healthy life? Keep reading to see why drinking more wine may be just the trick you are looking for.

Resveratrol, a natural polyphenol found in more than 70 plant species (including grapes!), is a chemical compound that has recently become popular in the world of health and nutrition. It’s been praised for its potential health benefits ranging from cancer prevention to clear skin. What exactly is resveratrol? Where can I get it? Why should I care? You have questions, we have answers.  

What is resveratrol?

Also known as 3,4′,5-trihydroxystilbene (try saying that five times fast), resveratrol is a natural food ingredient that is being studied for its potential superfood capabilities to fight off diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, acne and more. It fits into a category of plant-derived chemicals called phytochemicals, which also includes compounds like lycopene (found in tomatoes) and beta-carotene (found in carrots). Resveratrol is found in wine and foods including grapes, peanuts, pistachios, blueberries, cranberries, cocoa and dark chocolate.  

So…why should I care?

As a country, America is trying harder than ever to be healthier, yet the rates of obesity and chronic disease continue to rise. Could the secret to health be found in extraordinary compounds like resveratrol… or are we doomed forever? Let’s find out. 

We know that a healthy lifestyle includes a balanced diet and plenty of exercise. But are we overlooking some smaller pieces that could be the key to our longevity? Resveratrol could be one of them. Here’s a list of health conditions that resveratrol may be effective against.

1. Inflammation

One of the most obvious benefits of resveratrol is its antioxidant potential. Antioxidants have become highly sought-after nutrients in today’s world due to the increasing levels of inflammation and oxidative stress our bodies endure. These compounds defend our cells from harmful free radicals and help prevent chronic diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. In other words, they keep our immune systems strong and healthy. 

Antioxidants are also found in foods championed as “superfoods”, including berries, eggs and dark leafy greens.

2. Cancer

One of the most optimistic claims of resveratrol is the possibility that it can prevent or treat cancer in a variety of ways, like reducing tumor growth. Studies show promising results of resveratrol’s anti-inflammatory effects in the body, helping to suppress the growth and spread of cancer cells. However, larger human clinical trials need to be completed before the reliability and safety of these claims are confirmed.  

3. Diabetes

Those with either prediabetes, diabetes, or a family history of the two, listen up. Resveratrol has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and glucose control in diabetics in several animal studies. It may even reduce hemoglobin A1c levels, which is the measure of how well blood sugars are controlled on average over the course of three months. 

How, you ask? The mechanism in humans is still not confirmed by well-designed clinical trials, but resveratrol can stimulate glucose uptake and reduce the inflammatory response in diabetic rats.

4. Heart Disease

The French Paradox. It’s a term to describe the puzzling phenomenon of high intakes of saturated fat in France, yet relatively low prevalence of heart disease. It seems that all the red wine they drink may be helping them. Some hopeful scientists attribute this relationship to the anti-inflammatory effects of wine, but others claim that it may be related to other active components like flavonoids or alcohol. 

So, should we all start drinking more wine? The jury is still out. Resveratrol may reduce cholesterol and improve high blood pressure. However, the majority of studies find no true impact at all on cardiovascular health. More human trials are still needed to determine the effect of this chemical on our hearts. 

5. Obesity

The diet industry in America, now worth an estimated $72 billion, is the first place people usually turn for weight loss. Resveratrol may be able to help. Check out this study showing that resveratrol can help lower weight, BMI and fat mass. This could be the supplement to perfectly complement your new plant-based diet and exercise routine. 

Like all of the conditions above, more studies are needed to prove the benefit for certain. But hey, if there’s a shot it can help you shed a few pounds, it may be something to keep on the radar. 

6. Acne

If resveratrol can help you lose weight, is there anything it can’t do? Well, it may even help clear your skin! If you suffer from acne, you have most likely gone through every treatment possible to find a solution. Resveratrol-containing gel has shown positive effects for the treatment of acne. When used in combination with other therapies like benzoyl peroxide, it can fight off bacteria that causes acne in the first place. Talk to your dermatologist to see what they recommend. 

Where can I find it?

Wine

You heard that right, wine is the best source of resveratrol. I’ll wait while you pour up a hearty 5 ounces of Pinot Noir. While different wines have varying amounts of resveratrol, red wine takes the cake. That is because grapes skins are fermented longer to produce red wine than in other varieties. White and rosé follow close behind though. We don’t discriminate here. 

Resveratrol concentrations range from undetectable to about 14 milligrams per liter of wine. Depending on the source and production methods, as well as other variables, you really cannot be sure how much your monogrammed, stemless wine glass holds.  

Interested in experimenting with wine as a natural resveratrol supplement? Then you may be thrilled to hear about Winc, a subscription wine club. Enjoy saving money even more? They’re offering 40% off your first box!

Have enough subscriptions to keep up with already (Netflix, Spotify, etc…)? You can still get wine for a great value. Try this Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon. Bonus: it contains not one but THREE bottles of wine. 

Food

If you are curious about the resveratrol content in various foods, microgram for microgram, check out this list. Here’s the breakdown. 

1. Grapes

Fun Fact: Grapes are technically classified as berries. 

While I don’t recommend shoving a handful of grapes in your mouth to resemble a full-faced monkey (choking hazard, hello!), you can get your resveratrol fix from this yummy fruit. The highest concentrations are found in the skin and seeds. Freeze a bunch for a healthy dessert or chop some up for the finishing touch on a fresh Waldorf salad. 

2. Dark Chocolate

Fun Fact: Dark chocolate can actually be classified as a vegetable since it is made from cocoa BEANS. Well, not exactly. But we can keep telling ourselves that.

Don’t overlook the potential health benefits of this classic dessert ingredient. Dark chocolate has antioxidant potential due to its content of resveratrol and another nutrient called flavanol. Compared to wine, dark chocolate has relatively low amounts of resveratrol, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still indulge from time to time.  

Beyond Healthy Chocolate is loaded with antioxidants.

Beyond Healthy Chocolate Power Squares

3. Peanuts

Fun Fact: Peanuts are legumes, not nuts!

To get the highest concentration of resveratrol possible from this legume, boiled peanuts are the way to go. Having a handful of peanuts for a snack or adding a spoonful of peanut butter to a smoothie is not a bad idea either. To add to the antioxidant effects of resveratrol, peanuts also contain anti-inflammatory compounds like unsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E. 

4. Pistachios

Fun Fact: Even though pistachios are a member of the cashew family, they are classified as seeds. Just like peanuts, these guys are NOT nuts!

Add pistachios to your next grocery list as one more way to increase your resveratrol intake. And no, pistachio ice cream does not count. Pistachios have a similar resveratrol content to peanuts so choose whichever you prefer. 

5. Blueberries

Fun Fact: Blueberries are one of the few foods that are naturally blue in color. 

While blueberries rank among the lowest in resveratrol concentrations, they rank number one in antioxidant health benefits when compared to 40 other fruits and vegetables. Resveratrol may not be the shining star in these berries, but their antioxidant potential is undeniable. Grab a bushel from your local farmer’s market and get creative! These berries are at their peak flavor in the summer. 

A chart showing the relative concentrations of resveratrol in various food and drink sources. Amounts listed are the average maximum amount found in each. MG=milligrams; L=liter; UG=micrograms; G=gram; NG=nanograms

Supplements

Americans rely heavily on supplements to get a variety of vitamins and minerals, making the supplement industry worth over $30 billion. Is a resveratrol supplement the quick fix you have been looking for? Although the body does not absorb resveratrol found in supplements as well as it does in food or wine, supplements pack in a much higher concentration of the chemical. This means that you are likely receiving more resveratrol from a supplement than you would be able to consume through food.

While there are no specific recommended amounts of resveratrol consumption, shoppers can purchase supplements with up to 1600 mg, like this one from Simple-Organics. 

If you are interested in getting a little boost of this polyphenol in supplement form, always consult a doctor before taking the leap. It may interact with other medications or supplements you are currently taking. Scroll further to find out more about the safety of resveratrol. 

Skincare

Struggling with acne or other facial imperfections? Due to its ability to fight off acne-causing bacteria, resveratrol has gained momentum in the beauty world. This antioxidant formula containing resveratrol and ferulic acid from The Ordinary may be worth adding to your skincare regimen. 

Is resveratrol effective and safe to consume?

Before you load up your amazon cart with resveratrol supplements, talk to your doctor. Resveratrol may negatively interact with several medications including blood thinners and NSAIDS (like aspirin and ibuprofen). Additionally, resveratrol supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so there is no guarantee that you are getting what the product claims. 

Although there is no evidence showing adverse side effects of resveratrol supplementation, the extraordinary claims may be somewhat misleading. You may not have an extreme negative reaction to resveratrol, but this study shows that dietary resveratrol actually has no impact at all on inflammation, cardiovascular disease, or cancer. 

A 2014 article published in Harvard Health Letter completely rejects all claims that resveratrol can increase longevity. There may be proof that it improves the health of lab rats, but that does not necessarily mean it translates to humans. Even if it does, we still do not know the best way to consume it and how much we need to actually make an impact. 

What you need to know about resveratrol:

While resveratrol has amazing potential to help manage and prevent chronic disease, there is still a lot more research that needs to be done. Positive results have been shown in animals but these studies have yet to be successfully applied in humans to a satisfactory degree. The health benefits and doses needed to experience those benefits are still widely unknown. 

What does that mean?

Increasing your intake of foods that naturally contain resveratrol definitely will not hurt, but it is not a guarantee that you will be disease-free for life. As a Registered Dietitian, here are the top three tips I can give for improving your health and quality of life: 

1. Eat a balanced, colorful diet

A good rule of thumb is to make sure at least half of each meal is full of color, mainly from fruits and vegetables. A plant-based diet with whole grains, high-quality protein, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables is as close to a guarantee for a long, healthy life as one can get. 

2. Move your body daily

Whether it is a 30-minute walk outside or a HIIT workout from POPSUGAR Active, exercise provides the body and mind with endless benefits. Try to move your body in some way for at least 30 minutes throughout the day. Can’t seem to fit it in? Make the world your playground. Park farther away from the grocery store to get extra steps in, take the stairs instead of the elevator at work, dance around with the kids to tire them out for nap time. 

3. Healthy mind, healthy body

The mind-body connection is real and strong. This means that thoughts, ideas, emotions and attitudes can have an actual impact on the body’s physiological function. Hence: healthy mind, healthy body. Maintain your mental health by incorporating stress-reducing activities every day. Choose from meditation, yoga, journaling, listening to music, reading or any other hobby that calms your mind. Your body will thank you. 

The Final Word on Resveratrol

Experts cannot make a definite statement on whether or not to supplement with resveratrol but keep an eye out for more research that is sure to come. The world of nutrition is constantly evolving, but we know that there is no magic pill to make us healthy. Eat plenty of vegetables, move every day, and keep a positive mind. A glass of wine (Apothic Rosé, please!) every now and then won’t hurt either. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kate Regan

Kate Regan is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and an indoor cycling instructor in the Washington DC-Metropolitan region. Fascinated by the mind-body connection, her ideal day is spent meditating, running on a new trail, finding electrifying remixes for her cycling playlists, and sharing laughs over Ben & Jerry’s with family and friends. Her passion for nutrition stems from the belief that a healthy relationship to food is essential to living a healthy (and happy!) life.

Previous

What to eat if you have diverticulitis

8 Simple Hacks to Crush Your SIBO Symptoms

Next

Leave a Comment

shares