Resveratrol supplements sound more like a heart medication than a natural supplement, but don’t let the name fool you. For many who consume red grapes, peanuts, and other types of berries, you’re already getting this very helpful polyphenol.
But what about everyone else, are resveratrol supplements a healthy substitute for natural sources? Are resveratrol supplements as healthy as they say?
Resveratrol, like any other supplement, does have a lot of misleading information surrounding its many benefits. So, to help weed out fact from fiction, let’s jump in and see what the truth is about resveratrol supplements.
What is Resveratrol?
Resveratrol is a type of polyphenol that you can find in certain types of plants such as peanuts, grapes, pistachios, cranberries, bilberries, blueberries, and even cocoa. This compound acts similarly to many antioxidants in mammals.
Resveratrol supplements come from extracts of the Polygonum cuspidatum, otherwise known as Japanese Knotweed. Other sources for resveratrol are from red grapes and red wine extracts.
How Do Resveratrol Supplements Work?
Resveratrol works in the body the same way an antioxidant works. These compounds reduce inflammation, oxidizing compounds, and prevent cell damage from free radicals from occurring. Free radicals are the unstable atoms commonly found in sunlight and pollution.
Free radicals can occur when our bodies are burning fat, which can cause aging, brain degeneration, and can potentially cause cancer. The antioxidant and inflammation-reducing properties of polyphenols are what give you the benefits of resveratrol supplements.
Are There Any Benefits to Taking Resveratrol Supplements?
While there may not be any evidence of resveratrol supplements extending a human’s lifespan, there are many other health benefits to resveratrol supplements. Some of those benefits are:
- It is good for brain health.
Resveratrol, from natural sources such as grape seed and red wine, has proven to help prevent age-related cognitive decline and protecting brain cells from damage. It can also interfere with protein fragments such as beta-amyloid from forming plaque, a known component that contributes to Alzheimer’s disease.
- It may help increase insulin sensitivity.
In mice studies, researchers believe it can stop the enzymes from turning glucose into sorbitol, a type of sugar alcohol. In humans, resveratrol can help protect against oxidative stress and reduce inflammation. Resveratrol can also activate AMPK, a protein that helps metabolize glucose and keep blood sugar levels low.
- It may help with easing joint pain.
Resveratrol’s anti-inflammation properties goes a step further for those ailing from arthritis. This supplement can potentially protect cartilage from breaking down and may also prevent damage to joints.
- It has a positive effect on blood fats.
For those who are at risk of heart conditions and high cholesterol, resveratrol may be of help. Resveratrol helps improve good HDL levels by reducing enzymes responsible for cholesterol production. It also reduces oxidation of LDL, bad cholesterol, thus reducing plaque buildup in artery walls.
- It may lower blood pressure.
Maintaining good cholesterol isn’t the only heart benefit. The antioxidant properties of resveratrol can lower blood pressure by reducing the pressure exerted by the artery walls, otherwise known as systolic blood pressure.
Resveratrol can help the heart in other ways, such as helping the body produce more nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is what helps the blood vessels relax, and is ideal for those who are aging and have stiff arteries.
- It can potentially suppress certain types of cancer cells.
While it isn’t a cure-all for cancer, resveratrol shows promising results for fighting certain types of cancer such as skin, prostate, breast, colon, and gastric. How it does this is by inhibiting cancer cell growth and preventing it from spreading.
It can change gene expression in certain types of cancer cells. Resveratrol can interfere with the expression of hormones, namely estrogen and testosterone.
- It can help protect the body against the effects of obesity.
Resveratrol is linked with activating the SIRT1 gene. This gene is what protects the body from the effects of obesity and certain age-related diseases.
As you can see, resveratrol can be a very useful supplement to have in your diet. But before you start using these supplements, you’ll want to look out for potential risks and side effects that can come with using resveratrol supplements.
Common Side Effects of Resveratrol Supplements
While resveratrol supplements do have many wonderful benefits, nothing is ever entirely perfect. The good news is resveratrol has no bad side effects when consumed in fairly high doses. You can get resveratrol’s health benefits by eating at least 2 grams per day.
The bad news, the FDA doesn’t regulate resveratrol supplements, so you may not be getting enough of the resveratrol extract that you need to feel the benefits. After all, most resveratrol supplement capsules only come in 250 and 500 milligrams. You can negate this by choosing to purchase your supplements from reputable manufacturers.
Another factor to consider is the method by which you get resveratrol. The body may not readily absorb the supplements in either capsule or powder form. Which means you may not get enough of the resveratrol extract to see any benefits.
You should try to get resveratrol from natural sources of any vitamin, mineral or micronutrient in place of supplements whenever possible. These supplements may have side effects if taken with other types of medications or drugs.
Can Certain Drugs Affect Resveratrol Supplements?
While resveratrol is fairly harmless by itself, there are certain drug interactions you’ll want to be aware of. Resveratrol supplements can conflict with blood thinners (warfarin) and NSAIDs ibuprofen and aspirin.
People Who Should Avoid Taking Resveratrol Supplements
For some, taking supplements is not always advisable due to their health conditions or prescription medications. Before taking any type of supplementation, always check with your doctor to ensure proper supplement dosing and risks for potential drug interactions.
Using supplements can be helpful for many people who aren’t able to eat from natural sources. Resveratrol, while not perfect, does have many health benefits that most can receive with proper supplementation.
All in all, if you want to get the most out of the polyphenol resveratrol, try including natural sources such as red grapes, peanuts, cocoa, dark chocolate, mulberries, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, and bilberries into your diet. And if ever in doubt about whether this supplement is safe for you, it never hurts to get your healthcare provider’s second opinion.