Review affirms multiple benefits for resveratrol
A review scheduled for publication in the September, 2009 issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research summarizes the health-promoting effects of resveratrol, a polyphenol compound found in red grapes, wine, and other plant foods.
University of Queensland School of Biomedical Sciences associate professor Lindsay Brown and colleagues conclude that resveratrol may help protect against a wide array of diseases and conditions. “The breadth of benefits is remarkable – cancer prevention, protection of the heart and brain from damage, reducing age-related diseases such as inflammation, reversing diabetes and obesity, and many more,” Dr Brown stated. “It has long been a question as to how such a simple compound could have these effects but now the puzzle is becoming clearer with the discovery of the pathways, especially the sirtuins, a family of enzymes that regulate the production of cellular components by the nucleus. ‘Is resveratrol the only compound with these properties?’ This would seem unlikely, with similar effects reported for other components of wine and for other natural products such as curcumin. However, we know much more about resveratrol relative to these other compounds.”
Red wine contains a number of active compounds, including flavonols, anthocyanins and phenolic acids, in addition to resveratrol. Wine drinking has been associated with a reduction in cardiovascular disease risk and in mortality over a given period of time when consumed in moderation; yet excessive alcohol intake is linked with multiple organ damage and other adverse effects.
“It sounds contradictory that a single compound can benefit the heart by preventing damage to cells, yet prevent cancer by causing cell death,” Dr Brown observed. “The most likely explanation for this, still to be rigorously proved in many organs, is that low concentrations activate survival mechanisms of cells while high concentrations turn on the in-built death signals in these cells.”
“The key difference is probably the result of activation of the sirtuins in the nucleus. Low activation reverses age-associated changes, while high activation increases the process of apoptosis or programmed cell death to remove cellular debris,” Dr Brown added. “Similar changes are seen with low-dose versus high-dose resveratrol: low-dose resveratrol produces cellular protection and reduces damage, while high-dose resveratrol prevents cancers.”
“It is a clichÃ© that ‘nature is a treasure trove of compounds,’ but studies with resveratrol show that this is correct!” Dr Brown enthused. “We need to understand better the vast array of compounds that exist in nature, and determine their potential benefits to health.”