The nutrient resveratrol, best known as the bioactive ingredient in red grapes, is celebrating a birthday of sorts.
According to The Harvard Gazette at the time, the researchers discovered that resveratrol “extends the life expectancy of every organism that, so far, has been fed on it, including yeast, worms, and fruit flies.”
After the researchers, led by Dr David Sinclair, published their findings in Nature, headlines around the world trumpeted that an “anti-aging pill” has been discovered.
While the suggestion that one “magical pill” is a fountain of youth may be a stretch, hundreds of studies during the subsequent 20 years have linked resveratrol with numerous health benefits.
While 2003 was the year most people first heard of resveratrol, its beginnings were much earlier and more benign.
The first mention of it was in a Japanese article in 1939 by Michio Takaoka. Takaoka had isolated resveratrol from the perennial plant Veratrum album. Later, in 1963, he also isolated it from the roots of Japanese knotweed.
The National Institutes of Health’s PubMed database shows a trickle of studies on resveratrol starting in 1978.
In the 1990s resveratrol’s health benefits were highlighted in what became known as the “French paradox study.” The phrase was coined by Dr Serge Renaud from Bordeaux University to describe the low incidence of heart disease and obesity among the French, despite their relatively high-fat diet and high rate of wine consumption. The resveratrol in the widely-consumed red wine appeared to provide the protection.
But it was in 2003 when Dr Sinclair and fellow researchers reported that resveratrol could activate a gene called sirtuin 1—the same gene that is activated during calorie restriction in various species, including monkeys.
Many experts felt this was the proof that moved resveratrol from theorized health benefits to documented benefits.
From that point a virtual explosion of research was conducted. PubMed records 230 resveratrol studies in 2004, climbing steadily to a whopping 1,509 studies in 2021.
In September 2023, twenty years after the 2003 study, the the PubMed database held 17,466 published studies on resveratrol. And while pharmaceutical-funded Wikipedia asserts there is no evidence that resveratrol has a “substantial effect on any human disease” a quick perusal of the database shows the vast majority of the 17,000 plus studies do show positive benefits in a wide array of health conditions.
One 2019 study sums-up resveratrol’s potential this way:
“Resveratrol is a polyphenol that is abundant in grape skin and seeds. Food sources of resveratrol include wine, berries, and peanuts. This compound has many properties, including activity against glycation, oxidative stress, inflammation, neurodegeneration, several types of cancer, and aging. Because resveratrol is generally well-tolerated, it is believed to be a promising compound in preventing many diseases, such as diabetes and its complications.”
Research published so far in 2023 highlights both the diverse benefits of resveratrol and the diversity of countries interested in capitalizing on the benefits. Some examples include:
• CANCER – Chinese researchers using both in vitro and in vivo models corroborated numerous earlier studies on resveratrol’s anti-cancer properties. “The novel findings from this study provided evidence that resveratrol exhibited multi-target effects on suppression of lung cancer and could be a novel potent cancer-preventive compound,” the researchers wrote in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.
• DRY EYE DISEASE – A study conducted in India, and published in Indian Journal of Ophthalmology concluded: “Because of its diverse role as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, resveratrol holds promise as a potential drug for ameliorating dry eye disease.”
• SLEEP DISORDERS – Swiss researchers, writing in Molecular Biology Reports, concluded “resveratrol may represent a nutraceutical useful in a wide variety of circadian-related disorders.” The researchers noted this type of research is vital considering chronic circadian disruption can lead to numerous pathologies, including metabolic disorders, age-related diseases and cancer.
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