How Resveratrol Works

Figuring out how resveratrol works was a difficult task for scientists. Although the substance was discovered and known to have health benefits in the 1930s, it was not until the early 2000s that the mechanism behind its life-extending properties came to be understood.

Drawing of a Resveratrol Molecule

Humans and many other animals have a gene called Sirt 1. Under normal circumstances, this gene becomes activated when the body undergoes a very slender diet, also called calorie restricted. The job of this gene is to protect the body's cells, and especially the DNA, from oxidation (from free radicals) and also reduce inflammation. Scientists believe that, far back in human history, this helped bodies live longer so that they could survive traumatic times and live into times of plenty to reproduce.

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Another reason that resveratrol may have age extending properties is that it interacts with mitochondria - the powerhouse of the cell. It increases the oxidative phosphorylation and aerobic capacity. When mice were given resveratrol they increased their ability to do aerobic activity. Their muscle fibers were able to consume more oxygen in a shorter period of time. In this way it protected mice against diet-induced-obesity and insulin resistance.2

Resveratrol as an Antioxidant

Through the liver and the nervous system, resveratrol is thought to reduce free radicals. It acts as an antioxidant inhibiting monoamine oxidase3, which destroy nerve cells by stealing electrons from the DNA and other vital parts of the cell structure.

Resveratrol as an Anti-Inflammatory Agent

By limiting the ability of two key substances (cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase) to act, resveratrol helps to control inflammation that can damage cells, especially nerve cells. Trancription factors, found on DNA can also induce swelling and inflammation. Resveratrol helps to inhibit this genetic response.

This dual effect as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, combined with the simple chemical structure of resveratrol give it wide-spread effects in the body. In this way it can reduce the arthritis pain, and the symptoms of neuro-degenerative diseases.

Two Types of Resveratrol

There are actually two types of resveratrol trans- and cis-. Trans-resveratrol is what is found in the skins of grapes, etc. It is considered the most beneficial. When it is exposed to oxygen, it becomes cis-resveratrol. In this form the positive effect on the system is thought by some to be diminished. Experiments determining the efficacy of one over the other are still in progress.

It should be noted that most of the experiments regarding the effects of resveratrol in general were performed on mice. Thus many of the observations above were extrapolated to cover the human system. However, there is much reason to believe that this extension can be made as there are many similarities between the bodies of mice and men. Also, the general effects of red wine are well known and are well-accounted for by this research.

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  1. Dr. Johnson on Resveratrol
  2. Resveratrol and Mitochondria Study
  3. Referencing an article previously at: http://www.http://hopes.stanford.edu/n3575/managing-hd/lifestyle-and-hd/diet/red-wine - Stanford University on Red Wine Consumption

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