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Clarifying the Complex World of Nutrition Science

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Resveratrol’s Health Benefits Go Beyond Anti-Aging

The anti-inflammatory effects of resveratrol were first described in 1997 after a study on an animal model determined its primary activity to be the inhibition of COX-1.19

Then a study led by some of the same researchers from Cornell Medical College in New York City revealed resveratrol's COX-2 inhibitory effects.20  In this study, the researchers exposed human mammary and oral epithelial cells to phorbol esters, which induce COX-2 expression and the production of prostaglandin E2. The addition of pure resveratrol inhibited both these effects, reversing the increases in COX-2 mRNA and protein. In addition to modifying gene expression, they also found resveratrol to directly inhibit COX-2 activity.

A recent study showed that resveratrol reduces the damaging effects of arthritis on cartilage tissue in animal models.21

Another recent study showed that resveratrol reduces homocysteine—an amino acid in the blood resulting from inflammation and leading to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.22

Shows promise as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease

Several recent studies suggest that resveratrol works on some of the mechanisms of Alzheimer's disease. In laboratory mice, resveratrol was found to protect neurons against amyloid toxicity,232425 a prime culprit in the disease, and also increases cognitive ability.26

Is a mild anti-depressant

Now we know why drinking wine makes you feel good and—at least temporarily—helps you leave your troubles behind. Researchers at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain found that resveratrol is a mild but "potentially useful molecule in the treatment of depression." Although they performed an in vitro study rather than a clinical study on humans, resveratrol was compared to molecules used to make commonly used anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs, and exhibited the same characteristics.

As a natural enzyme inhibitor resveratrol inhibits both monoamine oxidase and 5-hydroxytryptamine, as many prescribed drugs do today, and the researchers concluded that if resveratrol shows similar behavior in humans, “it may have interesting therapeutic potential for improving the pharmacological treatment of depression." 27

Recent studies indicate that in addition to resveratrol, the polyphenols in red wine have many beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system.

The French smoke, drink, and eat lots of cheese. Yet, despite a diet that's relatively high in fat, they boast a 42% lower incidence of cardiovascular disease than Americans do. Why? Because in addition to eating a diet that includes whole, high-fiber grains, they drink red wine. Red wine is chock full of antioxidant compounds and resveratrol, which in turn lowers the risk of many diseases.28

Three recent studies have shown that red wine has even more benefits than previously realized.

1) Red wine promotes nitric oxide production

One study showed that among the many proven benefits of red wine polyphenols is the inhibition of platelet aggregation and promotion of nitric oxide production, both important factors for promoting proper blood flow throughout the body. Additionally, red wine has been shown to significantly prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. This effect was even evident in heart patients taking large doses of supplemental vitamin E, showing the unique antioxidant properties of red wine components.

The authors concluded that, "Based on the existing evidence of antiplatelet and antioxidant benefits and improved endothelial function from red wine and purple grape juice, it seems reasonable to suggest that moderate amounts of red wine or purple grape juice be included among the 5-7 daily servings of fruits and vegetables per day as recommended by the American Heart Association to help reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease." Because red wine seems to have multiple beneficial effects on cardiovascular health and function, it seems prudent to include it in our diet.29

2) Red wine consumption lowers homocysteine levels

The newest independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease is excess levels of homocysteine—not cholesterol. Contrary to popular belief, elevated cholesterol alone does not cause heart disease. It is merely one of the many markers of the disease. In fact, it's quite possible to have a heart attack even if you have "normal" cholesterol levels.

But, according to research, there's a definite possibility you'll have a heart attack if you have high levels of homocysteine. What is it? Homocysteine is an amino acid derivative that's naturally found in your body. Too much of it can generate free radicals that increase injury to arterial walls, accelerate oxidation and the buildup of cholesterol in blood vessels, and set the stage for arterial and venous diseases, including stroke.30

The good news is that scientists have discovered that red wine can dramatically lower homocysteine levels, even in obese individuals. These researchers concluded that, "Mild to moderate alcohol consumption, especially red wine consumption, in obese subjects is associated with lower fasting homocysteine concentrations. This may reduce cardiovascular risk and help explain the “French Paradox.” With this new research, we can add lowering homocysteine levels to the myriad of positive effects red wine's components have on cardiovascular health.31

3) Red wine polyphenols prevent the oxidation of dietary fats in the digestive tract

While most people are aware that oxidized fats are an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease, most aren't aware that much of the oxidative stress occurs from the normal oxidation of dietary fats within the digestive tract. The subsequent absorption of these oxidation products greatly increases oxidative damage in the body and modifies LDL cholesterol to damaging forms.

Recent research has shown that wine polyphenols are very effective at preventing the rise of oxidized fat products after meals. Because much of our body's oxidative stress is a result of the absorption of these damaging fats after meals, red wine's unique ability to prevent fat oxidation during digestion is a novel means to lower the damaging effects of these oxidized fats on our cardiovascular system. As the author's concluded, "Apparently, wine procyanidins are active in preventing lipid oxidation of foods while in the digestive tract, thus preventing the postprandial plasma rise in oxidants. The likely limited bioavailability of these compounds, therefore, does not affect their relevance as key elements for optimizing nutrition and reducing risk of atherogenesis." 32

Dietary supplementation is a popular and inexpensive way to lower one's risk of heart disease

Don't worry, we're not asking you to drink two glasses of red wine every day over a leisurely four-hour lunch, as the French do (although it doesn't sound like punishment!). Even if you don't drink red wine, you can gain the same benefits by drinking red grape juice or taking a nutritional supplement that contains red wine polyphenols. Because red grape juice is also very high in sugar and calories, red wine extract is the low-calorie choice to obtain the amazing and broad-spectrum benefits of the magical red grape.

The health benefits of wine without the calories and alcohol

While substantial evidence suggests that red wine offers numerous health benefits, the preferred method of obtaining the healthful phytochemicals in wine is a standardized red wine extract. This helps to avoid the calories and alcohol found in wine. Many epidemiological and laboratory studies have shown that the polyphenols found in red wine, including resveratrol, have the potential to substantially enhance our health and longevity. By consuming a standardized extract of red wine that includes both polyphenols and resveratrol, we are able to harness the health promoting properties of red wine in a safe, healthful, and easy to use supplement.


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Editor's Note:

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These articles are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult with a physician before embarking on a dietary supplement program.

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