Red wine complements an evening unlike anything else, but this tart alcoholic beverage can do a lot more than serve as a simple aid to help you unwind after a long day. In regards to heart health, red wine can actually benefit many cardiovascular properties thanks to the presence of one compound in particular: resveratrol.
While there’s still much yet to be understood about the correlation between resveratrol and the development of heart problems, it is widely agreed upon that resveratrol plays a significant role in preventing heart attacks due to the presence of antioxidants, which can increase the levels of the “good” type of cholesterol knows as high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and protect against excessive cholesterol buildup.
Sounds promising, right? We still have a lot more to unpack concerning resveratrol and the potential it has in regards to supporting the heart and other aspects of your body’s health, so let’s take a deeper look at the compound and how it may benefit you as a dietary supplement.
In this article, the following points we will address include:
- The benefits of resveratrol and why drinking red wine can improve heart health
- How resveratrol can help protect the brain, lower blood pressure, and more
- Things to consider before taking resveratrol supplements or consuming alcohol
What is Resveratrol?
If you want to unlock the secrets to a long and healthy life, then you might want to consider adding a glass of red wine to your evening meal. The antioxidants present in red wine, known as polyphenols, have been thought to help protect the lining of blood vessels in the heart. One compound in particular, the polyphenol resveratrol, is linked to a plethora of benefits for health and well-being.
Antioxidants are compounds that inhibit oxidation and protect the body against free radicals. Resveratrol contains a number of protective qualities to maintain your health and fight off potential illnesses. Among the studies that have been performed on the abilities of antioxidants so far, many have reported a variety of possible benefits, including anti-aging effects, neurological improvement, anti-cancer effects, and much more.
Food sources for resveratrol include red wine, peanuts, grapes, and berries. The skin and seeds of grapes and berries seem to be areas highly concentrated with resveratrol. Since these parts of the grape are utilized in the making of wine during fermentation, it stands to reason red wine would be abundant in the compound.
Current research on humans is limited, and much of that research uses a supplemental form of resveratrol. The supplemental form of the compound is more concentrated than resveratrol found in natural food sources, so it is unclear what real impact the supplements would have in regards to the body.
The Health Benefits of Resveratrol
Resveratrol has a lot to offer to your health. From antioxidant and cardioprotective properties to anticancer and neuroprotective effects, the potential benefits that resveratrol can bring to your health are plenty.
Lower Blood Pressure
Resveratrol has antioxidant properties, which means it could act as a supplement for lowering blood pressure. A review from 2015 determined that high doses of resveratrol may reduce the pressure exerted on the walls of the arteries when the heart beats. This type of pressure is called systolic blood pressure, and it is indicated by higher readings on blood pressure monitors. As we age and arteries stiffen, we become ever more at risk of having high blood pressure, increasing our susceptibility to heart disease.
Because resveratrol is an antioxidant, it has anti-inflammatory effects and can protect cells in the body from damage. Resveratrol provides a protective layer to line blood vessels, helping to prevent heart disease and strokes. It is also thought that resveratrol is able to lower blood pressure by inducing the production of nitric oxide, a colorless gas that causes blood vessels to relax.
Raise Good Cholesterol
There is a good chance that resveratrol supplements may have a positive impact on blood fats. A study conducted in 2016 had mice on a diet that was high in protein and polyunsaturated fats, and they were also administered resveratrol supplements. Results of the study showed that the average total cholesterol levels and body weight of the mice decreased, while the levels of HDL cholesterol increased in contrast.
A diet that is naturally high in foods rich with antioxidants promotes the production of HDL, or good cholesterol, and low levels of LDL. Resveratrol has a profound impact on cholesterol levels likely because of resveratrol’s ability to reduce the effect of an enzyme that influences the production of cholesterol.
The results of various studies have shown that drinking red wine can help slow down cognitive decline related to aging. The antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties of resveratrol are most likely responsible for this due to their interference with protein fragments called beta-amyloids, a crucial component in the formation of plaques that are an indication of Alzheimer’s disease.
Resveratrol was also found to improve motor functions in rats and to deactivate neuroinflammatory response following intracerebral hemorrhage. With these findings, it seems as though resveratrol can be used as a novel therapeutic agent to remedify intracerebral hemorrhage. The compound may also set off a specific sequence of biological events that protect brain cells from further damage, preventing certain neurodegenerative impairments like Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Though early research shows promise for how resveratrol affects brain health, there is some concern regarding how well the human body can utilize the supplemental form of resveratrol due to limited bioavailability.
Increase Longevity in Some Animals
There is a lot of attention around the prospect of resveratrol having the ability to extend the lifespan of different organisms. Researchers have discovered evidence of resveratrol participating in the activation of specific genes that reduce the influence of age-related diseases, which explains how the compound can improve longevity and stave off death.
Resveratrol is able to accomplish this in the same way as caloric restriction, a dietary regimen that is centered around reducing your typical intake of energy from the calories of food and beverages without incurring malnutrition. These processes alter the expression of genes, which can profoundly impact longevity and lengthen the lifespan.
Unfortunately, the notion that resveratrol could help extend the lifespans of humans remains uncertain. Studies that have explored this potential benefit of resveratrol found that the compound played a role in increasing lifespan in about sixty percent of the organisms that were studied. The effect was notably stronger in lifeforms that were less genetically similar to humans, such as worms and fish.
Inhibit Cancer Cells
The potential for the treatment and prevention of cancer has been the subject of numerous studies conducted on the effects that resveratrol has in regard to health. With mixed findings, it cannot be guaranteed to have any positive effect on the spread of cancer throughout the body. However, results of several animal and test-tube studies show that resveratrol can fight multiple types of cancer cells, including colon, breast, skin, prostate, and gastric.
The cancer-blocking activity exercised by resveratrol may be due to a variety of reasons. It is possible that the compound inhibits cancer directly by preventing the replication and spreading of cancerous cells, alters gene expression to halt growth, and interferes with the expression of hormones, which keeps cancers that are dependent on hormones from spreading.
More studies will have to be performed on human subjects in order to get a better medical understanding of how resveratrol affects the spread of cancer and the potential for its use in cancer therapies.
Increase Insulin Sensitivity
Animal studies have shown resveratrol to possess multiple benefits for the treatment of diabetes, including the increase of insulin sensitivity and the prevention of complications stemming from diabetes.
The reason resveratrol may have this effect is thought to be a result of the compound inhibiting a certain enzyme from turning glucose into sorbitol, a sugar alcohol. An excessive accumulation of sorbitol inside individuals with diabetes can result in oxidative stress and the damage of cells.
It is possible that resveratrol may be used to help treat folks who are diabetic due to an array of positive factors. The antioxidant role of resveratrol can help against oxidative stress, which can result in complications. Resveratrol is also thought to act as an anti-inflammatory agent, and since inflammation is a lead contributor to chronic diseases, it could reduce the likelihood of diabetes. Lastly, resveratrol activates the protein AMPK, which helps the body metabolize glucose, therefore keeping blood sugar levels low.
Resveratrol Concerns and Risks
The findings of current research indicates that there are no major risks associated with taking resveratrol supplements. Healthy individuals appear to tolerate the compound well, though there is still some murky water regarding specifics. At this time, there is no conclusive answer to the recommended dosage an individual should take to experience the desired effects.
A Brief Note on Health and Alcohol
It should go without saying that the consumption of alcoholic beverages should only be done in moderation, or not at all. Even if red wine does offer potential benefits to your overall well-being, the full effect alcoholic drinks have on heart health is still being studied.
Current data shows us that moderate drinkers of alcohol, including red wine, appear to have a lower risk of developing heart disease and additional cardiovascular problems. However, it’s difficult to compare moderate drinkers to nondrinkers, as there are several outside factors that may influence the data such as the possibility of nondrinkers with predispositions to health issues.
On the basis of red wine being better for heart health than other types of alcohol, there is too little research to give a certain answer. With nothing conclusive, it’s difficult to say that red wine has a positive influence on your quality of health, despite the presence of resveratrol and its unique benefits. It is not advised that you take up regular drinking to combat and prevent medical problems, as alcohol can become habit-forming and cause severe health problems in the future.
Excessive alcohol consumption can increase the risk of certain dangers such as:
- Heart failure
- Weakened immune system
- High blood pressure
- Accidents and violence
- Suicidal ideations
- Weight gain and obesity
- Certain types of cancer
- Liver disease
There are certain times when alcohol consumption should be limited or stopped altogether. Individuals who are pregnant, have a family history of substance abuse, experience heart issues, are predisposed to liver and pancreas disease catalyzed by alcohol usage, or take certain medications should completely avoid alcoholic beverages.
If you think resveratrol supplements could offer the boost to your health that you’ve been searching for, then there’s nothing wrong with venturing down the rabbit hole of this potent antioxidant, though do so with clarity. Discuss the possibility of resveratrol supplements with your doctor to get a better idea of what to expect, or simply stick to the red wine at mealtime.