Resveratrol in food may protect heart, brain and fight cancer

  • Fresh berries, especially blueberries, are rich with resveratrol, a bioactive compound with many known health benefits.

    Fresh berries, especially blueberries, are rich with resveratrol, a bioactive compound with many known health benefits. Stock Photo

  • Fresh berries, especially blueberries, are rich with resveratrol, a bioactive compound with many known health benefits.

    Fresh berries, especially blueberries, are rich with resveratrol, a bioactive compound with many known health benefits. Stock Photo

 
Updated 4/14/2021 10:21 PM

Our health is closely related to the quality and quantity of food we consume.

Foods are more than calories, fat and protein. Many contain bioactive compounds that are important for our overall health. A case in point is resveratrol.

 

Over the years, medical research has shown that resveratrol is important for a number of health issues including having anticancer properties, being anti-inflammatory and even protecting the heart and brain. One recent medical study has shown how important resveratrol is in proper function of the skin, and maybe, just maybe, keeps us looking younger.

Resveratrol comes from a family of compounds found primarily in plants called stilbenoids. It is produced in great quantity by a plant when it is under attack from fungi and bacteria. Foods containing higher amounts of resveratrol include grapes, wine, purple grape juice, peanuts, cocoa, blueberries and cranberries.

Although resveratrol is well absorbed, it does not stick around for very long. Once in the body, it is rapidly metabolized to other compounds in the liver and lungs.

One of the early claims of benefit of resveratrol was that it could increase life span. It doesn't. However, there is reasonable animal and human research to suggest benefits in many other areas of health. Many studies have shown that resveratrol is a very powerful antioxidant and, in general, the typical American diet is low in antioxidants. Resveratrol also has significant antitumor activity not only for prevention but also treatment of several types of cancer.

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It is an interesting compound for cancer in that resveratrol affect all stages of carcinogenesis -- initiation, promotion and progression. However, there is no evidence that resveratrol alone cures any cancer.

The benefits of resveratrol do not stop at cancer. It may also be cardioprotective, lower blood pressure, help hot flashes and be neuroprotective. Most recently it has been shown help the skin stay healthy.

A review of resveratrol published in the medical journal Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2020) elucidated the many ways that the skin uses resveratrol for its benefit. The skin is the largest organ of the human body and has many important roles in maintaining health. Resveratrol helps the skin maintain its barrier properties as well as promotes the production of anti-bacterial compounds by the skin. It also helps to limit the type of skin cell proliferation that results in inflamed, thickened and stiff skin most often seen in aging, smoking and excessive sun exposure. Resveratrol helps to keep the skin supple in part by protecting against sun damage and the resultant melanogenic skin changes associated with aging (think age spots). There are an increasing number of "anti-aging" skin creams containing resveratrol.

There are cautions with resveratrol. Some animal models have not demonstrated any benefits. Common side effects of high dose resveratrol supplements include diarrhea and nausea. Theoretically it could interfere with blood thinners. Resveratrol may reduce or increase blood levels of several medications: statins, calcium channel blockers, amiodarone, HIV protease inhibitors, immunosuppressants, some antihistamines and benzodiazepines and medications for erectile dysfunction.

• Dr. Patrick Massey is president of ALT-MED Medical and Physical Therapy, 1544 Nerge Road, Elk Grove Village.

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