Red wine and its important constituents have been extolled by connoisseurs and the medical community. It has the capacity to improve health, counter the effects of aging, and even improve cognitive function. Many of the benefits of red wine come from an important compound that acts as a defense mechanism on the skin of grapes. Resveratrol is a good enough reason to enjoy a glass of wine, but it is also present in a variety of foods and health supplements. Here is all you need to know about the health-boosting potential of resveratrol.
The French ParadoxResveratrol received an unprecedented wave of attention when it was discovered as the primary answer to the French Paradox. During the 1980s, researchers were puzzled by the low levels of heart disease in France despite the comparatively larger levels of carbs, fats, and sugars in the regular diet. The answer became known as the French Paradox. This was accredited to an increased amount of red wine in the diet and healthy intake of resveratrol. Resveratrol worked to counteract the strain these foods may place on the heart and resulted in a relatively low level of heart disease.1
What is Resveratrol?Resveratrol belongs to a family of organic compounds called polyphenols. It is found in large quantities on the skin of grapes cultivated for red wine. Here, resveratrol works to protect the grape from harmful elements in the environment. In the human body, resveratrol provides important benefits to keep the body healthy and functional, and for much longer too. Resveratrol functions primarily as an antioxidant that protects the cells of the body from oxidative stress. This is the resulting damage caused by free radicals. Some of the most significant effects of resveratrol include improved insulin resistance and protecting the heart and blood vessels from damage. Other clinical benefits of resveratrol include promoting weight loss in the long-term, fighting the onset of osteoporosis, and modulating blood pressure.2 In the following section, we will take a closer look at some especially brain-healthy aspects of resveratrol.
Health Benefits of Resveratrol
Lower Blood PressureThe pressure of the blood on the inner lining of the blood vessels is how blood pressure is measured. When blood pressure is high, the strain placed on the inner lining of blood vessels increases. Prolonged conditions of high blood pressure can lead to damaged arteries, heart disease, and even a heart attack. Resveratrol is an effective compound for reducing the effects of high blood pressure and preserving the blood vessels.3 Studies have shown that resveratrol, taken as a supplement or in a glass of wine, may be an effective treatment for this condition. In one study, resveratrol was found to reduce systolic pressure. Since the arteries become less flexible with high systolic blood pressure, this can increase strain and lead to complications.4 Resveratrol protects the blood vessels with its antioxidant properties that prevent oxidative stress. Furthermore, the presence of resveratrol allows the upregulation of nitrous oxide which can help the blood vessels to which controls high blood pressure. Blood vessels under less strain last longer and do a better job of carrying oxygen to cells and organs.5
Improved Cognitive FunctionFeeling lost? Perhaps some resveratrol can dispel this confusion. Studies have shown that the special phenolic compounds in Champagne can improve spatial working memory. This is the type of cognitive function that allows you to learn about your environment. It helps you to remember your way through specific processes. This includes things like getting to work from your home or why you walked into the kitchen. Through the special effects that these polyphenols have on the hippocampus, cognitive function is improved. This part of the brain is primarily tasked with limbic functions, acquired memory, and navigation.6
NeuroprotectionResveratrol has a few special benefits that increase brain health directly and indirectly. Through the improvement of blood circulation and heart health, this phenolic compound keeps the brain well supplied with oxygen. Likewise, it helps keep the brain free of ischemic damage that can set in when deprived of oxygen. The healthy flow of blood also keeps the brain supplied with the nutrients it needs for proper function. The brain can also suffer from the toxins in the environment and regular use. The potent antioxidant activity of resveratrol protects the brain from damage caused by beta-amyloids and metal deregulation which can lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s.7,8
Tonic for the Nervous SystemRed wine and resveratrol have also been found to reverse certain cognitive deficits. This leads to enhanced conditions of the brain and Central Nervous System (CNS). In a study performed on mice suffering the cognitive deficit that accompanies hypoglycemia, treatment with red wine mitigated the complications associated with the condition. It was the strong antioxidant capacity of resveratrol in red and white wines that accredits with this benefit.9
Dietary Sources of ResveratrolBy this time you may be tempted to pour yourself a cup of brain-healthy red wine, even if you are not particularly fond of the drink. If this is the case, you will be happy to know there are plenty of other enjoyable non-alcoholic ways to get resveratrol. Following are some foods that are exceptionally high in resveratrol:10
- Red Wine – White wine also contains some resveratrol, but because the skins are removed, the content is minimal.
- Teas –– Green tea contains the most resveratrol. Itadori tea is also very high in this compound.
- Cacao –– Especially swiss chocolate cocoa and the original cacao