By Dr. Mercola
New evidence confirms that the antioxidant compound resveratrol, found in raspberries, mulberries and other dark berries, pomegranates, red wine, dark chocolate and the skin of red grapes, may improve blood vessels in people with type 2 diabetes.1
Resveratrol works by relaxing the stiffness that occurs with atherosclerosis, known as hardening of the arteries — a serious health concern because this condition can increase your stroke and heart attack risks. WebMD, which said the study results should be considered preliminary until its publication in a peer-reviewed medical journal, quoted lead researcher Dr. Naomi Hamburg, chief of the vascular biology section at Boston University School of Medicine, who explained:
"In treatment with resveratrol among people with diabetes, there was a trend toward improvement in the stiffness. And in people with higher stiffness, there was more of a benefit."2
Arteries tend to stiffen as people age, leading to an increased heart disease risk, but for people who are obese or have type 2 diabetes, the process starts sooner and the consequences are worse, Hamburg said.
While Hamburg believes a longer study is needed to determine whether resveratrol does indeed have the ability to reduce the incidence of heart attack and stroke, she noted that enough evidence exists to support further research. In the meantime her "overall recommendation is to have a diet that's rich in fruits and vegetables."3
The Study: Resveratrol Seems to Do the Trick on Aortic Stiffness
The main player examined in the study, the aorta, is the largest of your body's arteries with the job of transporting blood from your heart to the rest of your body. Scientists used carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity (CFPWV) tests to measure the aorta thickness of 57 patients, as well as the health of their blood vessels.
The study subjects all had type 2 diabetes in common, were an average age of 56 and most were obese, with an almost-even mix between men, women, African-Americans and Caucasians. Some of the participants were given resveratrol supplements, while the rest were given a placebo. The result wasn't deemed "statistically significant," but study results on the first group did indicate a trend toward reduced aortic stiffness with the use of resveratrol.
However, 23 patients with exceptionally stiff aortas when the study started were given daily 100 milligram (mg) doses of resveratrol for two weeks, after which tests indicated a nearly 5 percent reduction in stiffness.
The latter group's regimen was then followed up with 300 mg doses for another two weeks, resulting in decreased aortic stiffness by 9 percent. Perhaps the most telling portion of the research was that the placebo-dosed patients showed an increase in aortic stiffness at the end of the study. Significantly, an American Heart Association news release quoted Hamburg:
"The effect of resveratrol may be more about improving structural changes in the aorta, and less about the relaxation of blood vessels, and people with more normal aortic stiffness may not get as much benefit."4
Funded by the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, the study results were presented at the American Heart Association's Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, Peripheral Vascular Disease 2017 Scientific Sessions.
Resveratrol Activates Gene SIRT1
Animal studies had already determined that resveratrol activates the gene SIRT1, a protein that researchers say appears to delay aging and the development of several diseases.
To find out if it might do the same in humans, the same scientists used blood vessel lining samples from seven patients to check SIRT1 activity and found that it increased after they were given resveratrol supplements. WebMD asserted, "This doesn't prove that resveratrol activates the longevity gene, only that there was an association."
But Dr. Byron Lee, professor of medicine at the University of California in San Francisco, observed that it's a fact, not just conjecture, that people who drink red wine and eat nuts live longer, statistically, and expressed excitement that scientists are getting to the bottom of the significant differences resveratrol can make. He added:
"Impressively, the effect was seen after just a few weeks of treatment. Who knows what more prolonged antioxidant treatment could do to the arteries and other organs."5
Additional studies have shown that SIRT1 also helps prevent disease by recharging or speeding up what you could call your cell's energy production centers, the mitochondria6 and, further, by providing antiaging benefits, particularly in arteries.
That study's senior author, David Sinclair, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, said that in the history of pharmaceuticals, no drug has ever been able to bind to a protein to make it "run faster" the way resveratrol-activated SIRT1 does in trials, because nearly all the drugs they'd tried either slowed or blocked them.
Sinclair, who incidentally is a cofounder and scientific adviser of GlaxoSmithKline's company Sirtris, said that when it became known how resveratrol activates SIRT1 in cells, the plan became one to "engineer even better molecules that more precisely and effectively trigger the effects of resveratrol."7
But when supplementation and eating the right foods can truly be your medicine, as Hippocrates advised, it's the best way to seek health, not eating unhealthily and seeking pharmaceuticals to fix the subsequent problem.
If You Think Red Wine Is Your Resveratrol Source, Think Again
Resveratrol belongs to a family of compounds known as polyphenols, recognized as viable tools to combat damaging free radicals in your body, from environmental toxins and unhealthy foods to chemicals you might encounter. Further, resveratrol helps to optimize your cholesterol levels, including raising beneficial HDL cholesterol. There are studies that maintain that because it's highly soluble in alcohol, your body may absorb more resveratrol from red wine than from other sources.
Muscadine grapes, for instance, have the highest concentration in nature due to their extra thick skins and many seeds, where resveratrol is concentrated, but that's not a reason to ingest wine like an elixir.
First of all, with no other factors attached, alcohol is neurotoxic and can damage your brain and other organs. It also increases your insulin levels. Wine has even been shown to contain glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, and the most used agricultural chemical in history. The most potent aspect of resveratrol is as an antioxidant, and there are far healthier sources to obtain this potent free radical scavenger.
How to Obtain the Benefits of Resveratrol
One of the most dramatic aspects of resveratrol is its neuroprotective effects, even to the point of slowing the onset or progression of Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia, which accounts for 20 percent to 30 percent of all dementia cases, caused by blocked or reduced cerebral blood flow that results in oxygen deprivation.
A U.K. study showed that a single dose of resveratrol can improve blood flow to your brain and may enhance several aspects of brain function.8 The benefits include lowered inflammation and may extend to protection again depression and improved learning and memory skills. A CBS News report described resveratrol's initial function as:
"A phytoalexin, an antimicrobial compound that is produced by plants to protect them from rough environments like excessive ultraviolet light, infections and climate changes. Resveratrol has been linked to protection against obesity and diabetes, a reduced risk for blood clotting and a way to … [optimize] cholesterol, due to the compound's ability to dilate blood vessels, increase nitric oxide and block the stickiness of platelets."9
Studies also show that as resveratrol nails free radicals, it helps prevent DNA damage, which, among other negatives, leaves your system vulnerable to disease, including cancer.
Resveratrol Included in List of World's Most Powerful Healing Compounds
One study10 listed a large number of some of the most powerful disease-preventive agents and the foods they're derived from, and included resveratrol and some of its sources, among others:
✓ Curcumin (turmeric)
✓ Limonene (citrus fruits)
✓ Lycopene (tomato)
✓ Capsaicin (red chili)
✓ Diosgenin (fenugreek)
✓ 6-gingerol (ginger)
✓ Ellagic acid (pomegranate)
✓ Indole-3-carbinol (cruciferous vegetables)
✓ Ursolic acid (apple, pears and prunes)
✓ Anethol (anise, camphor and fennel)
✓ Catechins (green tea)
✓ Eugenol (cloves)
✓ Resveratrol (red grapes and berries)
✓ Beta carotene (carrots)
✓ Allicin (garlic)
While dark chocolate and cacao are included on the list as sources of resveratrol, keep in mind that your best bet is raw cacao nibs, which can be eaten whole or ground into powder for use in recipes. This also excludes milk chocolate, which contains much more sugar, and white chocolate, which contains no resveratrol at all. Plus, it's always better to get your nutrition from as many good sources as possible, so eat those blueberries.