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Resveratrol- beneficial effects of red wine

Grape Scott!

By Bonnie Jenkins, Advanced Natural Medicine Bulletin

A few years ago, Americans sat up and took notice when scientists proclaimed they had discovered the “fountain of youth” – in the skin of red grapes. Suddenly, bottles of merlot and pinot noir started flying off the shelves.

Now we had the perfect excuse to have a glass of wine with dinner. After all, red wine – or more specifically, a polyphenol called resveratrol – was good for your heart and could help you live longer! There was just one catch – those early studies showed that you would have to consume copious amounts to do any good.

But that was then, and this is now. New research shows that consuming relatively low doses of resveratrol can also offer cardiovascular benefits. But before you pop the cork – let’s get the real lowdown.

Wine’s Heart-Healthy Side

During this new study, which was conducted by several top U.S. universities, researchers fed middle-aged rats one of three diets for 16 months: a control diet, a diet containing a small amount of resveratrol, or a calorie-restricted diet. By the end of the study, the investigators found that both calorie restriction and resveratrol produced similar genetic effects in the heart, skeletal muscle and brain.

As we get older, certain genes change the way our body functions. For instance, there are at least 1,029 genes in the heart whose functions change with age – which explains why the heart doesn’t function as efficiently as we get older. In animals on a restricted diet, 90 percent of those heart genes experienced altered gene expression profiles, while low doses of resveratrol thwarted age-related change in 92 percent. This means that drinking a glass of wine with dinner each evening or taking resveratrol supplements that contain even small doses of the antioxidant can substantially boost your heart health.

While resveratrol can be found in peanuts, pomegranates and some berries, grapes are the best source of this potent, fat-soluble antioxidant. In fact, grape skins – especially those from red or purple grapes – contain between 50 and 100 mcg. of resveratrol per gram.

The Cholesterol Connection

While you can’t see resveratrol’s impact on your genes, there are other cardiovascular factors that can be measured. The most impressive is its impact on HDL (good) cholesterol levels. A recent study in South Korea comparing resveratrol to a lipid-lowering fibrate drug showed that resveratrol raised HDL levels just as effectively as the pharmaceutical. Plus, the antioxidant and the drug also lowered both total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.

But, unlike statin or fibrate drugs, resveratrol blocks cholesterol oxidation and decreases the “stickiness” of blood platelets – two powerful causes of atherosclerosis and blood clots. There is also evidence that resveratrol helps maintain the flexibility of blood vessels – which also reduces atherosclerosis and the likelihood of a blood clot breaking loose and causing a heart attack.

If that weren’t enough to recommend enjoying a glass of cabernet sauvignon with dinner tonight, resveratrol inhibits the inflammation that contributes to arterial damage. This anti-inflammatory action may also be one of the reasons that resveratrol appears to prevent a variety of cancers.

Mastering Moderation

The watchword in all of this, of course, is moderation. For men, that means fewer than two glasses a day. Women should limit themselves to no more than one per day. People who drink alcohol in amounts that exceed the limits of moderation have higher death rates than do moderate drinkers, primarily from liver disease, high blood pressure, alcohol-related heart diseases and some types of cancer.

But, while this unique polyphenol is well-absorbed by the body, its beneficial effects don’t last long, making it difficult to get resveratrol’s healthful properties just by drinking moderate amounts of red wine. Fortunately, adding a high-quality resveratrol supplement to your daily regime can bridge the gap and create a cumulative and beneficial impact on your health.

One Last Thing …

What if you like wine? Purple grape juice and pomegranate juice also contain the antioxidant at levels high enough to offer protection. But, the best way to get a consistent amount of resveratrol is through supplementation.

To get the same amount you would consume by drinking wine, take 600 mcg. of resveratrol daily. But you don’t need to limit yourself to this amount. Resveratrol supplements are extremely safe, and studies show that taking more will have an even more beneficial impact on your HDL levels.

This Just in …

Most health experts know that managing stress levels can help people with hypertension lower their blood pressure. And most of us know that relaxation is important to maintaining a healthy body and mind. But finding the time and ways to relax can still be a challenge. 

Well, here’s some motivation that just might encourage you to close your eyes and breathe deeply. Researchers at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine report that relaxation-response training (a specific stress-management technique) reduces both overall blood pressure and systolic blood pressure (the top number). In a recent study, middle-aged people suffering from hypertension took part in either relaxation-response training or lifestyle modification. While all the participants experienced lower blood pressure, those practicing relaxation response were able to eliminate their medication.

So what is relaxation response? Simply put, it’s a routine involving two steps: the repetition of a word, sound, phrase or motion and passive disregard of ordinary thoughts that come to mind. While it may take some practice to ignore those thoughts that tend to pop up out of nowhere, doing relaxation response for 10 to 20 minutes once or twice daily can keep your blood pressure under control and help you get a better handle on life’s everyday stressors.

***

References:

Barger JL, Kayo T, Vann JM, et al. “A Low Dose of Dietary Resveratrol Partially Mimics Caloric Restriction and Retards Aging Parameters in Mice.” Public Library of Science ONE 2008;3(6): e2264.

Do GM, Kwon EY, Kim HJ, et al. “Long-term effects of resveratrol supplementation on suppression of atherogenic lesion formation and cholesterol synthesis in apo E-deficient mice.” Biochemical & Biophysical Research Communications. 2008;374:55-59.

Dusek JA, Hibberd PL, Buczynski B, et al. “Stress management versus lifestyle modification on systolic hypertension and medication elimination: a randomized trial.” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2008;14:129-138.