Resveratrol is a chemical that is found naturally on the skin of red grapes, of the polyphenol family that includes such other members as the powerful antioxidants anthocyanadin and the flavanoids. They destroy free radicals that are responsible for many ill effects in the body, including cardiovascular disease and aging. Aging occurs through the destruction of body cells that free radicals initiate, and can theoretically be retarded by the destruction of the free radicals.
Free radicals are becoming more common invaders of our bodies due to their increasing concentration in the atmosphere through vehicle and aircraft emissions, and also of our seas and rivers through industrial effluents. Free radicals are also created by excessive radiation, such as the harmful UV content of sunlight that is no longer effectively filtered by an adequate ozone layer.
Resveratrol extract is known to be effective against cardiovascular diseases due to its anti oxidant properties, and also for other reasons, but it is also believed to be a possible anti-aging supplement, to beat off the effects of old age. There is the obvious reason of it being a very powerful anti-oxidant and so preventing cell damage through the effects of free radicals, but there is more to it than just that.
The French do not seem to possess a longevity beyond that which could be expected from their diet high in saturated fats and alcohol. The fact that most of that alcohol is in the form of wines, especially red wines, is significant, but their high cheese intake with its cholesterol and saturated fat content, and other highly saturated animal fats, would be expected to cause a much lower average life expectancy that that which is actually normal in the area.
Although resveratrol extract is commonly found on red grape skins, and is a constituent of red wine, the quantities are small and it is the Japanese Knotweed that is the major natural source. Resveratrol extract is currently manufactured from knotweed, which is the main source of the supplement in health food stores. In fact you can purchase online what is described as ’Greater than 99% pure knotweed Resveratrol extract that is not contaminated with plant residues.’ A lot depends on your viewpoint I suppose!
Perhaps the biggest contribution to be made to longevity by resveratrol is that it can activate the SIRT1 gene. This is the gene that activates the protein and enzyme sirtuin. Sirtuin is thought to be what is loosely terms a ’protector of cells’ and helps cells to repair themselves when they are close to destruction. When the cell is not sure whether to carry on with the struggle or just give up and die, sirtuin persuades it to fight on and to repair itself. Without the sirtuin, the cell would have died, and as cells die, one ages.
However, the amount of resveratrol found in red wine is insufficient to activate the SIRT1 gene that has to be active before the sirtuin is activated, and supplementation is generally needed. The SIRT1 gene is also activated by a calorie reduced diet, and this can also help to protect cells from dying under stress. Such diets are useful in some situations, but will not necessarily prolong life for those that adopt it.
The SIRT1 enzyme is also thought by some to increase the activity of the mitochondria, the power packs inside cells that provide them with energy by processing fats. Mice fed with resveratrol extract appeared full of energy that was consistent with a surge in the number and efficiency of the mitochondria within their body cells. This is supported by an increase in muscle tissue. If this is true, and studies on this are continuing, then resveratrol extract fed to humans could also increase their energy as they age, since the aging process coincides with a reduction in the number and efficiency of the mitochondria within the cells.
This could also tie up in a way with the calorie controlled diet, since an increase in the metabolism that comes with increased mitochondria activity results in a higher calorie uptake, and so a reduction in the free calories available in the body. However, one of the mysteries of the human body is that what makes logical sense does not necessarily work in fact, and so the jury will remain out until the results of the large number of studies underway have been published.
For example, more evidence is required to prove the mitochondria activity theory unequivocally although all of the evidence so far tends to support it. At the moment resveratrol has restricted known uses, though the evidence is being collected and accumulated to provide support for the theories that exist on its ability to help us live longer and with more energy.
As more studies are carried out over the next few years, it seems highly likely that many more beneficial effects will be discovered, and those we are aware of confirmed by scientific proof. Resveratrol extract has many medicinal properties in addition to its beneficial effect on aging, such as its antioxidant properties, and ability to destroy free radicals, its anti-inflammatory properties where it is of benefit in the treatment of conditions such as arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, and also its effect as an antiseptic agent.
It is already known to increase the longevity of fruit flies, yeasts and worms and results on mice are just as encouraging. The theory behind its effect on human longevity is valid science, and it is known that if cells have a longer time to repair broken DNA, then they are able to do so. The enzyme sirtuin does this, and that is activated by the SIRT1 gene that is turn is activated by resveratrol. So the theory works, and so far laboratory tests are supporting this theory.
Whether or not resveratrol helps us to live longer or look younger as we age is not yet known, but studies are under way. Since the material is natural and not a prescription drug, there is nothing to prevent you from using it, but you are advised to consult your doctor before trying out medication that you have not taken before.