Saturday, January 1, 2011

Resveratrol - The Longevity Molecule

What is resveratrol

Resveratrol, also called the longevity molecule, is a polyphenol found in certain red grapes, red wine, and few other plants. It is well researched for its antioxidant capability and the ability to inhibit inflammation in the body. In plants, resveratrol acts as a defensive molecule, so called phytoalexin - a natural antibiotic that plants produce as a reaction to pathogenic infection, nutrient deprivation, and mechanical stress. Resveratrol is considered to have similar protective and life prolonging qualities in the human organism as well.

Resveratrol is found in abundance in red grapes, especially the skins of the pinot noir variety, raspberries, mulberries, blueberries and bilberries. Substantial amounts are found in peanuts, certain pine trees, and in the roots and stalks of the Japanese knotweed plant known in the Traditional Chinese Medicine as Hu Zhang (Polygonum cuspidatum). Most resveratrol used in nutritional supplements is commercially derived from this plant, although there are some products on the market that contain resveratrol from red grapes (Vitis vinifera) as well.

Resveratrol - the longevity molecule

After observing a surprisingly low rates of heart disease among the red wine drinking French population whose diet is rather high in saturated fat, scientists discovered a molecule that was responsible for the phenomenon. They called it resveratrol. Subsequent research demonstrated that resveratrol has a unique ability to mimic the gene expression effects of caloric restriction. Gerontologists consider caloric restriction to be the only way to maximally extend the life span. However, the long term calorie restriction program is not very easy or very practical to follow and most people do not just want to live longer, but also wish to enjoy life in its entirety, which, of course, includes the joys of good cuisine. Resveratrol, however, may offer a solution. The molecule not only mimics caloric restriction, but it also increases the caloric expenditure and improves the insulin sensitivity thus contributing to optimal body weight - another important co-relate of longevity.

Scientists also concluded that resveratrol which activates sirtuin protein in the body, may be helpful in prevention and treatment of metabolic disorders that are related to mitochondrial dysfunction thus giving hope to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's patients. More research has to be conducted in this field before an effective drug could be patented.

Resveratrol was also found to support the health of the endothelial tissue that is lining the blood vessels in the human body. This is a very important find as the scientists believe that atherosclerosis begins with the inflammatory damage in this tissue. The resveratrol molecule also seems to decrease the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein or LDL thus further promoting the cardiovascular health.

Research also demonstrated that resveratrol has the remarkable ability to inhibit the growth of many cancers. On the one hand, the resveratrol molecule blocks the activity of the NF-kß - a protein responsible for initiating the inflammatory process in cancer genesis. On the other, it speeds up the apoptosis or death of cancer cells. Scientists also observed that people who drunk red wine regularly were less susceptible to certain cancers. Red wine drinkers, for instance, were less likely to develop colorectal cancer.

Why trans-resveratrol

Resveratrol is a very unstable molecule that degrades quickly under the influence of light, heat, and oxygen. It degrades to its cis-resveratrol form which is less effective. Many resveratrol products on the market are not delivering what they promise. They contain resveratrol glycosides, or resveratrol bound to sugar. They are ineffective, unless they contain the stabilized resveratrol molecule called trans-resveratrol.

Trans-resveratrol in supplements is almost identical with the resveratrol used in laboratory testing and as such contains enough antioxidant power to activate the SIRT1 protein. Before buying your resveratrol supplement make sure that it contains trans-resveratrol that was encapsulated in environmentally sealed nitrogen capsules.

A next generation of resveratrol supplements appeared on the market recently. The capsules contain micronized trans-resveratrol and promise even higher bio-availability and effectiveness.

Products containing both, trans-resveratrol from red grapes and the grape seed extract, are considered to be the most effective.

Dosage - when less is more

There is no established dose of resveratrol. Relatively small doses of trans-resveratrol are sufficient to induce the life prolonging effect. Trans-resveratrol in large doses has the adverse effect. It sends a death-signal to the cells and causes cell apoptosis, or self destruction of cells. This fact is being explored in anti-cancer therapy. Research has demonstrated that extremely high doses of trans-resveratrol shrunk tumors in laboratory animals. However, when resveratrol is used as a nutritional supplement for prevention of disease, healthy adults should not take more than 100 mg of trans-resveratrol daily.

Keep in mind that higher doses may have unwanted side effects that call for caution. In laboratory setting high doses of resveratrol inhibit liver enzyme P450 which is involved in metabolism of some common medications. This means that resveratrol can theoretically increase the bio-availability of certain drugs. Individuals using statin drugs, benzodiazepins, calcium-channel blockers, or medication to treat erectile dysfunction, should not exceed the recommended dose of 100 mg per day. People using anticoagulant or anti-platelet drugs should not take more than 100 mg resveratrol per day as the molecule has the ability to inhibit platelet aggregation in humans.

Drug companies are currently seeking to patent a resveratrol resembling molecule in order to produce pharmaceutical drugs that could treat and prevent diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, or Alzheimer's disease. Until such drugs appear on the market, consumers can indulge in red grapes and an occasional glass of a pinot noir. Next best thing are the trans-resveratrol capsules containing resvertrol in its most bio-available form.

By Dominique Allmon

*This information is for educational purpose only. It is not meant to diagnose or cure a disease. Please, consult qualified health care provider before beginning supplementation. Nutritional supplements do not replace a healthy diet.

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Resveratrol - The Longevity Molecule by Dominique Allmon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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