Recently, the free radical theory of aging (FRTA) has been gaining credibility. This theory states that humans age as a result of cells accumulating damage over time from ‘free radicals’ which trigger a wide variety of age-related diseases.
Free radicals are groups of atoms with unpaired electrons which are created when certain molecules interact with oxygen. Once these free radicals are formed, they start a harmful chain reaction that damages cellular components. As a result, cells start aging, their performance significantly slows and they eventually die. The key defense our body uses to fight free radicals is antioxidants.
Antioxidants are a group of molecules that safely interact with free radicals and neutralise them. In the body, there is a comprehensive system of antioxidants including vitamins C and E. However, there are many powerful antioxidants that our bodies don’t synthesize including Resveratrol, a polyphenol found in plants and red wine.
Resveratrol – What is it?
Resveratrol is a naturally-synthesized polyphenol (a group of plant compounds) that serves as a barrier of defence against fungal invasions in plants. It is found in grape skins, wine (especially red wine), blueberries, peanuts, and Japanese knotweed. Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant responsible for neutralizing free radicals and preventing them from damaging cells.
The benefits of Resveratrol are impressive, and there have been over 4,400 studies conducted that show how it helps promote and protect our health.
The benefits of Resveratrol include:
- increasing heart health and longevity
- increasing muscle health
- protecting the body from heart disease, diabetes and cancer
- promoting cell health and longevity
- protecting spinal cord from injury
- supporting dental and oral health
- suppressing certain cancers
- lowering hypertension
- decreasing blood sugar levels
- reducing bad cholesterol
It is an impressive list.
Resveratrol – How it works
Resveratrol works in two ways:
- It protects the inner lining of the arteries from free radical damage
- It optimizes the dilation of blood vessels by protecting the body’s ability to manufacture nitric oxide, which is critical to keeping our blood vessels dilated.
These two amazing functions of Resveratrol allow it to play a preventative and positive role in the neutralising of many age-related diseases. Below are some of the particular benefits that Resveratrol offers.
The Benefits of Resveratrol
Preventing cancer initiation
Cancer comes about in three successive stages: initiation, promotion, and progression. Resveratrol prevents the development of cancer in all three stages. The best way to reduce cancer is by preventing it from entering the first stage, of initiation. Resveratrol does this by inhibiting the pro-inflammatory enzymes responsible for cancer’s initiation. In addition, Resveratrol potentiates the activity of certain enzymes responsible for destroying carcinogens (cancer-causing substances). Therefore, Resveratrol is proactive in the early stages of cancer development.
The second stage, promotion, may take years to develop and this is where diet and exercise play a vital role in keeping cancer in check. Resveratrol plays a powerful role in this stage and in the final stage, significantly reducing the size of tumours. In numerous studies, Resveratrol has been effective in inhibiting a wide variety of cancers including:
- lung cancer
- colorectal cancer
- gastric cancer
- breast cancer
- prostate cancer
- skin cancer (specifically melanoma)
It has also been effective in suppressing cancers including leukaemia, fibrosarcoma, and neuroblastoma.
Preventing heart disease and stroke
Free radicals, which cause oxidative stress, are the source of many age-related diseases, including heart disease. It develops when the walls of the arteries become inflamed due to oxidative stress, resulting in collagen cell and muscle build up.
Studies have found that Resveratrol reduces the risk of vascular oxidation related to heart disease. It eliminates the free radicals responsible for cellular damage, increases the production of nitric oxide, which plays a protective role for our cardiovascular health, and inhibits platelet aggregation which causes stroke. In all these ways, Resveratrol prevents heart-related diseases such as:
- cardiovascular disease
- coronary heart disease
- heart attacks
Scientific studies also demonstrate the beneficial role of Resveratrol in the prevention of diabetes. Research in the United Kingdom displayed the ability of Resveratrol to protect against the high production of glucose in diabetics patients which can damage ‘mitochondria’, the cell’s power-generating units. Resveratrol effectively eliminates the free radicals responsible for such glucose damage. Leading scientist and researcher, Dr. Matt Whiteman, mentions that “antioxidant effects (of Resveratrol) …are well-documented … our research shows the link between high levels of glucose, its damaging effect on cell structure, and the ability of Resveratrol to protect against, and mend that damage”.
Fighting obesity, a significant cause of cancer
Obesity is a significant factor in cancer development worldwide, and in 2008 over two-thirds of Americans, for example, were either overweight or obese. However, it has now been persuasively demonstrated that Resveratrol can treat the major obesity-related health concerns by creating the same conditions as a calorie-restricted diet (limiting the intake of calories while maintaining the appropriate intake of vital nutrients and minerals).
In a 2006 Harvard study, Dr. David Sinclair and his colleagues conducted a study showing how Resveratrol prevented many obesity-related diseases. He reported that “just with a simple molecule [Resveratrol] … you can reduce most of the negative impact of obesity, even if you do not lose weight. These negative impacts include diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease which can eventually kill people who are overweight”.
Extending human longevity through mimicking calorie restriction
In addition to the role of Resveratrol in preventing age-related diseases, which would indirectly imply that Resveratrol extends human life, there have been other studies conducted during the past two decades establishing a direct relationship between Resveratrol and extended lifespan. Among these was a study conducted by a life-extension sponsored research centre. The study showed how Resveratrol mimicked calorie restriction, which is the number one documented anti-aging strategy to date. In animal testing, caloric restriction improved age-related health decline with studies showing that Resveratrol-induced calorie restriction prolonged animal life by as much as 60%.
Resveratrol – Dosage and availability
The recommended daily dosage of Resveratrol is at least 250 mg. There are no known side effects of Resveratrol, but as the actual percentage of Resveratrol in supplement products may vary, it is important to buy supplements from a reputable source and follow the dosage recommendations.
Resveratrol can be consumed through drinking red wine or by taking natural supplements. As wine consumption can carry alcohol-related health risks, the natural preference for most people is to take Resveratrol as a supplement.
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