In recent years, many studies have come around exploring the role of resveratrol in reducing the risk of chronic diseases and improving life-span. And the research show that resveratrol indeed offers incredible health benefits.
It is believed to work through two main mechanisms – by scavenging free radicals and by activating sirtuins. Sirtuins are a specialized class of enzymes that are involved in various processes that regulate health and life-span.
So, what is resveratrol? And what is the secret behind its health-boosting properties? Let’s find out.
Quick facts on Resveratrol
- Some plants naturally produce resveratrol during stressful situations. This protective compound helps plants to fight against fungal infection, disease and UV rays. It also helps plants to survive during extreme climatic conditions or when there is lack of nutrients.
- Mostly found in the skin and seeds of grapes, some berries, peanuts, green tea and dark chocolate
1. Resveratrol offers anti-ageing benefits
Exerts anti-oxidant effects: One of the leading theories on ageing goes like this. Free radicals cause oxidative damage to cells and its structures, including lipids and mitochondria. This initiates unnecessary immune responses – causing body-wide inflammation and damage to cells, tissues and organs. Being a strong anti-oxidant, resveratrol destroys free radicals and limits the oxidative stress to tissues.
Additionally, the polyphenol also improves the levels of some main anti-oxidant enzymes in the body – giving your body some extra zing in fighting free radicals and oxidative damage.
Where do these free radicals come from? Ironically, your body produces a trail of free radicals as a by-product in various cellular reactions. These molecules are produced when your cells create energy or when immune cells fight pathogens. External factors such as emotional stress, chronic infections, alcohol misuse, excessive use of medication and exposure to toxins, chemicals and radiations also cause increased production of free radicals.
Your body has a natural anti-oxidant system in place to keep oxidation and inflammation within reasonable limits. It makes its own anti-oxidants (known as endogenous antioxidants). And healthy nutritious food also provides a range of minerals, vitamins and other anti-oxidant substances from the outside that helps your body keep a check on free-radicals, inflammation and disease.
Resveratrol is one of the most potent anti-oxidants we know. Studies show that as an anti-oxidant, it might be even more powerful than vitamin C and vitamin E.
Activates sirtuins: Resveratrol activates SIRT1, one of the sirtuins from the Sirtuin family of proteins. Sirtuins are a class of enzymes that are known to regulate many cellular and biological processes. SIRT1 regulates various pathways that affect energy metabolism, cell survival, inflammation and immune function, DNA repair mechanisms, circadian rhythms, mitochondrial function and how cells respond to internal and environmental stress.
Studies show that resveratrol activate SIRT1 and therefore may help in preventing diseases caused by inflammation, errors in DNA repair and metabolic disorders. You may have heard how calorie restriction drives good health and longevity. Studies show that reducing your calories intake (but with sufficient nutrition to support your body’s requirements) also activates sirtuins.
By activating sirtuins, resveratrol also increases the number and functions of mitochondria – tiny organelles that shoulder the responsibility of producing energy for the cells. Mitochondria burn carbohydrates, proteins and fats to produce energy. This process also throws off free radicals as by-products – making mitochondria and their DNA the prime target of free radicals and the damage they cause. Poor mitochondrial health and function are associated with advancing age and age-associated disease. Resveratrol also increases the levels of antioxidant enzymes located in the mitochondria.
It appears resveratrol may help delay ageing through another mechanism. A preliminary research showed that resveratrol may revive senescent cells – cells that are old and can no longer divide. Accumulation of senescent cells is associated with chronic diseases that typically manifest when we age. 
2. Resveratrol maintains heart health
Resveratrol supports your heart health by reducing oxidative damage and curbing inflammation. Oxidative damage also reduces the availability of nitric oxide (NO), a molecule that regulates endothelial health and functions. Endothelium is a fragile layer of cells that line the interior of your arterial walls. Poor endothelial function is directly associated with the onset of atherosclerosis, arterial inflammation and heart disease.
Resveratrol helps maintain cardiovascular health as it:
- Prevents oxidation of low-density lipoproteins (LDL), which is one of the driving factors in the development of heart disease.
- Improves the function of endothelium by stimulating NO production.  As a natural vasodilator NO also helps the blood vessels to dilate and relax, which helps reduce blood pressure.
- Improves the levels of anti-oxidant enzymes in the cells, which helps reduce oxidative damage in cardiovascular system.
- Prevents the formation of blood clots
Whilst more long-term clinical trials are certainly needed, research so far holds promise. This review highlights the anti-oxidant benefits of resveratrol as well as its role in mitochondrial production. It reported that,” This polyphenolic compound reduces mitochondrial superoxide generation by stimulating mitochondria biogenesis. Resveratrol prevents superoxide production from uncoupled endothelial nitric oxide synthase by up‐regulating the tetrahydrobiopterin‐synthesizing enzyme GTP cyclohydrolase I. In addition, resveratrol increases the expression of various antioxidant enzymes.” 
The review article clearly states that it is the anti-oxidant effects of resveratrol are majorly responsible for its health benefits, including heart healthy benefits.
Another review concluded that “taking into account the beneficial effects of RES on hypertension, obesity, inflammation, diabetes and dyslipidemia, RES could constitute an interesting pharmacological approach for the treatment of metabolic syndrome, which is associated with an increased risk of CVD development.” 
3. Resveratrol supports brain health
A lot of studies suggest that resveratrol may support brain health, mostly because of its anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. The brain is highly susceptible to oxidative damage as it needs high amounts of energy, which means it is continuously being exposed to free radicals produced by mitochondria during energy production.
Could it also reduce one’s risk of Alzheimer’s? Resveratrol may play an important role in delaying the progression of this neuro-degenerative disease as it reduces inflammation in the brain.
A 2017 study found that resveratrol preserves the integrity of the blood brain barrier in people suffering from Alzheimer’s. This prevents toxic, inflammatory molecules to penetrate the brain tissue, which can otherwise promote brain inflammation and destroy neurons. 
In this study, the researchers found that patients given resveratrol had reduced levels of matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) levels in their cerebrospinal fluid. This happens when SIRT1 is activated. Increased levels of MMP-9 leads to a leaky or faulty blood brain barrier, where proteins and molecules from outside the brain can easily enter the brain and cause damage.
In addition, resveratrol also increases certain protective molecules that assist your adaptive immune system to break-down and get rid of abnormal proteins that can damage the brain. According to the researchers “This is the kind of immune response you want — it is there to remove and degrade neurotoxic proteins.” 
The researchers did note that resveratrol alone can’t be effective in treating patients with Alzheimer’s, but the findings are very good news indeed!
4. Resveratrol helps in Type 2 diabetes management
Resveratrol has been found to reduce blood glucose and lower insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes.   . It may also lower the risk of obesity.
While its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties play a direct role, there are many other mechanisms through which resveratrol may work in improving metabolic functions. 
First, resveratrol activates Sirtuin1, which helps in improving insulin sensitivity in cells. SIRT1, which is mostly located in the nucleus, controls the release of hormone insulin from beta cells of the pancreas. Insulin helps the cells to absorb and use the glucose in the blood, thus playing a central role in regulating blood sugar levels. SIRT1 also protects the insulin-secreting beta cells from the damage caused by metabolic stress, inflammation and aging. SIRT1 activation may be the reason why resveratrol helps to reduce arterial stiffness brought on by aging, type 2 diabetes and being over-weight.
Second, resveratrol increases the activity of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). It is an enzyme that regulates how your body would be using fat and glucose. This reduces one’s risk of obesity and other risks associated with being overweight.
Third, resveratrol increases NO levels and improves endothelial function, which also helps in improving insulin resistance.
Emerging data brings another angle to how resveratrol may help in metabolic disorders. A 2018 study reports that resveratrol interacts with gut microbiota. It changes the bacterial arrangement in a way that is linked with “beneficial metabolic outcomes”. 
A 2017 research published in the American Heart Association found that resveratrol may help reduce stiffness in the arteries of people with type 2 diabetes.  High levels of glucose in the blood inflame and damage the arteries, causing stiffness. While age also causes stiff arteries, people with diabetes suffer from premature hardening of arteries, increasing all kinds of health risks such as high blood pressure, heart attack and even stroke.
Now, as we know high levels of blood glucose causes inflammation and injury in the blood vessels – leading to dysfunction in both large and small blood vessels. This not only damages heart health but also adversely affects your brain health, as it impairs the blood flow to the brain, increasing the risk of progressive dementia in people with type 2 diabetes. Another study shows resveratrol supplements improves cerebrovascular function, maintaining cognitive performance in people with type 2 diabetes. 
5. Resveratrol supports skin health
We know how resveratrol may boost your health and life span by activating certain proteins that are associated with longevity. Well, it shouldn’t be surprising that resveratrol also offers protection against premature skin ageing.
UV radiation triggers the formation of free radicals that are known to damage cells and their lipids and DNA. Too much exposure to the sun can cause premature ageing of your skin, formation of fine lines, wrinkles and dry skin. Free radicals also affect the production of collagen, a protein that is responsible for your skin’s youthfulness and elasticity.
How resveratrol helps?
- Protects the skin from oxidative damage caused UV radiation and other environmental factors.
- Helps repair skin damage.
- Helps in collagen synthesis.
It is best to take resveratrol in liposomal form. Liposomal resveratrol supplements are effective in improving the amount of antioxidant that reach cells, offering maximum benefits.
- E Latorre et al. Small molecule modulation of splicing factor expression is associated with rescue from cellular senescence. BMC Cell Biology. 2017
- Xia et al. Effects of resveratrol on eNOS in the endothelium and the perivascular adipose tissue. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2017
- Ning et al. Antioxidant effects of resveratrol in the cardiovascular system. British Journal of Pharmacology. 2016.
- Dominique Bonnefont-Rousselot et al. Resveratrol and Cardiovascular Diseases. Nutrients. 2016.
- Moussa et al. Resveratrol regulates neuro-inflammation and induces adaptive immunity in Alzheimer’s disease. Journal of Neuroinflammation 2017
- Press Release. Resveratrol Appears to Restore Blood-Brain Barrier Integrity in Alzheimer’s Disease. Georgetown University Medical Centre. 2016.
- Zhu et al. Effects of resveratrol on glucose control and insulin sensitivity in subjects with type 2 diabetes: systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2017
- Liu et al. Effect of resveratrol on glucose control and insulin sensitivity: a meta-analysis of 11 randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014
- Goh et al. Effects of resveratrol in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus on skeletal muscle SIRT1 expression and energy expenditure. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2014.
- Wong et al. Resveratrol Counteracts Insulin Resistance—Potential Role of the Circulation. Nutrients. 2018
- Chaplin et al. Resveratrol, Metabolic Syndrome, and Gut Microbiota. Nutrients 2018.
- Can the antioxidant resveratrol reduce artery stiffness in diabetics? American Heart Association. 2017.
- Wong et al. Low dose resveratrol improves cerebrovascular function in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Nutrition Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases. 2016.