Page last updated: Thursday, August 06, 2009
Resveratrol study demonstrates significant health benefits
Several resveratrol studies, a polyphenol found in high concentrations in red wine, have indicated therapeutic potential for cancer chemoprevention as well as cardioprotection. Resveratrol may aid in the prevention of age-related disorders, such as neurodegenerative diseases, inflammation, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Studies indicate that low doses of resveratrol improve cell survival as a component of cardio- and neuro-protection, while high doses increase cell death. The benefits of alcohol are all about moderation. Low to moderate drinking appears to reduce all causes of mortality, while too much drinking causes multiple organ damage. A mini-review of recent findings on red wine’s polyphenols, will be published in the September issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research; the review is also available at Early View.

“The breadth of benefits is remarkable – cancer prevention, protection of the heart and brain from damage, reducing age-related diseases such as inflammation, reversing diabetes and obesity, and many more,” said Lindsay Brown associate professor in the School of Biomedical Sciences at The University of Queensland and corresponding author for the study. “It has long been a question as to how such a simple compound could have these effects but now the puzzle is becoming clearer with the discovery of the pathways, especially the sirtuins, a family of enzymes that regulate the production of cellular components by the nucleus. ‘Is resveratrol the only compound with these properties?’ This would seem unlikely, with similar effects reported for other components of wine and for other natural products such as curcumin. However, we know much more about resveratrol relative to these other compounds.”

Key points of the review include: Resveratrol exhibits therapeutic potential for cancer chemoprevention as well as cardioprotection.

“It sounds contradictory that a single compound can benefit the heart by preventing damage to cells, yet prevent cancer by causing cell death, said Brown. “The most likely explanation for this, still to be rigorously proved in many organs, is that low concentrations activate survival mechanisms of cells while high concentrations turn on the in-built death signals in these cells.”

Resveratrol may aid in the prevention of age-related disorders, such as neurodegenerative diseases, inflammation, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.. “The simplest explanation is that resveratrol turns on the cell’s own survival pathways, preventing damage to individual cells,” said Brown. “Further mechanisms help, including removing very reactive oxidants in the body and improving blood supply to cells.”

Low doses of resveratrol improve cell survival as a mechanism of cardio- and neuro-protection, while high doses increase cell death. “The key difference is probably the result of activation of the sirtuins in the nucleus,” said Brown. “Low activation reverses age-associated changes, while high activation increases the process of apoptosis or programmed cell death to remove cellular debris. Similar changes are seen with low-dose versus high-dose resveratrol: low-dose resveratrol produces cellular protection and reduces damage, while high-dose resveratrol prevents cancers.”

In summary, noted Brown, current scientific research is starting to explain reports from the last 200 years that drinking red wine improves health.. “We need to understand better the vast array of compounds that exist in nature, and determine their potential benefits to health.”

“There is one particular point that deserves fleshing out,” added Taylor. “Resveratrol is largely inactivated by the gut or liver before it reaches the blood stream, where it exerts its effects – whatever they may be – good, bad, or indifferent. Thus, most of the resveratrol in imbibed red wine does not reach the circulation. Interestingly, absorption via the mucous membanes in the mouth can result in up to around 100 times the blood levels, if done slowly rather than simply gulping it down. Of course, we don’t know if these things matter yet, but issues like this are real and generally ignored by all.”

Source: The Biological Responses to Resveratrol and Other Polyphenols From Alcoholic Beverages. Lindsay Brown, Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. Published Online: 10 Jun 2009

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