When it comes to "hot" supplements, resveratrol is high on the list. Multiple studies conducted on laboratory animals have demonstrated the highly beneficial effects of this polyphenol (a class of plant chemicals), which is found most abundantly in the skins of grapes and in red wine—and now is available in supplement form.

Key animal study findings: Resveratrol has been shown not only to enhance muscle strength and reduce fatigue, but also to help prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer...clear away the toxic proteins that cause Alzheimer's disease...and even lengthen life span by 25%.

Can this substance do the same for humans?

An Important Discovery

Resveratrol's emergence as an anti-aging and disease-fighting powerhouse began in the 1930s with a seemingly unrelated finding-that severe calorie restriction extended the lives of rodents by 40% to 50%.

It wasn't until the 1990s, however, that researchers at Harvard Medical School discovered the genetic basis for the beneficial effect of calorie restriction. Through various experiments in animal studies, calorie restriction was shown to trigger a kind of chain reaction that activates "survival genes" (sirtuins), which in turn, energize an enzyme (SIR2) that stabilizes DNA. This process slows cellular aging. In further studies, researchers discovered that resveratrol is one of the most potent sources of the molecules that activate these survival genes.

Current Evidence

To further test resveratrol's benefits, researchers conducted other animal studies--this time without calorie restriction. Resveratrol and other polyphenols were found to increase the life span of fish by 60%...worms and flies by 30%...and mice by 25%-benefits attributed to improved cellular health.

Resveratrol-enhanced cells are believed to help fight…

  • Heart disease and stroke. Resveratrol appears to decrease harmful inflammation, which contributes to cardiovascular disease.

Breakthrough research: A human study showed that drinking one-and-a-half glasses of red wine a day lowered, by 40%, levels of lipid peroxide, a by-product of inflammation that damages arteries. This and other health benefits are believed to be due to resveratrol and several other polyphenols in red wine.

Through various animal studies, resveratrol was shown to spark the production of the beneficial gas nitric oxide, which gives blood vessels more flexibility. Resveratrol also thins the blood, reducing the risk for an artery-clogging clot. In studies of animals with induced heart attacks, those given resveratrol had a significantly lower fatality rate. In similar studies on Stroke, resveratrol prevented paralysis and limited brain injury in animals.

  • Cancer. Eighteen different types of cancer-including lung, colon, skin, liver and pancreatic-have been markedly inhibited by resveratrol in laboratory studies using both animal and human cells.
  • Diabetes. In animals, resveratrol helps normalize blood sugar (glucose) levels by moving glucose out of the bloodstream and into cells. Laboratory research also shows that resveratrol reduces diabetic neuropathy (nerve pain that often occurs in the legs and feet).

New finding: In a human study, a synthetic, resveratrol-like compound was shown to give people the same type of glucose control that resveratrol gives mice.

  • Alzheimer's disease. In animal studies, resveratrol helps remove the amyloid-beta protein associated with Alzheimer's disease.

New finding: In a study of 90 healthy people, researchers at Marywood University in Scranton found that a supplement containing resveratrol and other polyphenols improved memory and sped up reaction time.

Resveratrol Sources

Even though the preliminary research is promising, there is a caveat. You would have to drink up to 1,150 bottles of red wine daily to get the amount of resveratrol used in most animal studies.

Since that's not feasible, I recommend a more practical approach that includes two things-a regular diet of resveratrol- and polyphenol-rich foods (the resveratrol is far lower than the doses used in animal studies, but these foods contain other beneficial compounds that may enhance absorption of resveratrol from food and/or supplements).. and the use of a mixed polyphenol supplement or a resveratrol supplement.

That strategy—along with regular exercise and the health promoting effects of close emotional ties with family and friends-is your best bet for fighting chronic disease and living longer. My advice…

  • Eat a polyphenol-rich diet. Resveratrol is the superstar of polyphenols, but many scientists think that a combination of polyphenols—ingesting them together, as they are found in nature-is the best way to activate survival genes.

The foods richest in resveratrol and a variety of other polyphenols…

  • Red wine or red grape juice. These are the top dietary sources of resveratrol. Important: Wine grapes with the most resveratrol include pinot noir, merlot, grenache, cabernet sauvignon and tempranillo. (These wines also deliver up to about 500 different polyphenols along with resveratrol.)

Suggested daily intake: Four to 16 ounces of red grape juice daily (be mindful of the sugar content). Up to 12 ounces of red wine daily for men.. and no more than six ounces daily for women (the potential health benefit of daily wine consumption by women must be weighed against a possible increase in breast cancer risk).

  • Pomegranate juice. It is a good source of resveratrol and many other antioxidants.

Suggested daily intake: Three to five ounces.

  • Dark chocolate. It is a rich source of concentrated flavonols, a potent type of polyphenol. Select unsweetened or semi-sweetened varieties with at least 70% cocoa.

Suggested daily intake: One bite-sized square.

  • Green tea. Green tea contains resveratrol and is rich in epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and other polyphenols.

Suggested daily intake: Three eight-ounce cups. Decaffeinated green tea contains EGCG but relatively little resveratrol.

  • Blueberries. They are rich in procyanidins and other polyphenols

Suggested daily intake: At least one cup (fresh or frozen).

  • Take a mixed-polyphenol supplement. I recommend the mixed polyphenol supplement Vindure 900, a product developed by Vinomis Laboratories based on Harvard University research. Vindure is available from Vinomis Laboratories (877-484-6664, www.vinomis.com). Follow the dosage recommendation on the label.

Because resveratrol absorption is thought to be enhanced when combined with other natural polyphenols, a mixed-polyphenol supplement is best.

However, an alternative is to…

  • Take a resveratrol supplement. There are more than 300 resveratrol-containing products now available. The best products are made with trans-resveratrol (the active form of the substance shown by professional testing to activate the sirtuin "survival genes")...and produced by manufacturers who comply with "Good Manufacturing Practices" GMP), which ensures that the product contains no major contaminants.

My favorite resveratrol products are manufactured by…

  • Longevinex, www.longevinex.com, 866-4054000.
  • RevGenetics, www.myrergenetics.com, 888738-4363

Suggested intake for most resveratrol supplements: 250 milligrams (mg) to 500 mg daily.

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