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Resveratrol: the benefits and side-effects of this ‘fountain of youth’

Resveratrol is a powerful and beneficial polyphenol found at high levels in grapes - and therefore wine. Discover its effects and in which circumstances to either prioritise or avoid it.
Grapes, raspberries and other resveratrol-rich foods
Grapes and raspberries are both sources of resveratrol.
Rédaction Supersmart.
2021-06-08Comments (0)

What exactly is resveratrol?

Resveratrol is an active ingredient found in grapes, blackberries and peanuts.

It is also found at significant levels in wine: as a constituent of the grape’s skin and seeds, it passes into grape juice during the production of wine.

Resveratrol is primarily known for its protective effects on the cardiovascular system and is thus a key area of interest in anti-ageing research. It is also frequently mentioned in connection with the famous ’French Paradox’. But what exactly does this term signify?

Resveratrol and the ‘French Paradox’

In the 1960s, British epidemiologists observed that there was a higher incidence of cardiovascular health issues among the population of Britain compared with that of France. This, despite the fact that French cuisine is famous for containing generous amounts of fat. Thus the origin of the famous paradox lies in these logic-defying observations.

In 1992, two researchers, Serge Renaud and Michel de Lorgeril, published a study suggesting that the ‘French Paradox’ could be explained by the high content of polyphenols (including resveratrol) in the fruit, vegetables, olive oil and wine routinely consumed in France(1).

While certain aspects of the study require further perspective, this research was largely responsible for raising awareness of the virtues of resveratrol, sometimes referred to as the ‘fountain of youth’. And it remains the beneficial polyphenol most associated with the French diet.

Does resveratrol pose any risks?

In actual fact, very few risks have been associated with resveratrol. Nevertheless, it’s important to be aware that some do exist.

Adverse effects on certain cancer treatments

Some conventional treatments for cancer are based on an oxidant effect of the body’s cells. Taking resveratrol at the same time as such treatments may mean that the polyphenol’s antioxidant properties have an inhibitory effect on the cancer treatment.

Interactions with other drugs

Resveratrol can sometimes exert an anticoagulant effect on the body (2). It’s therefore important that your doctor knows you are taking resveratrol if he or she has prescribed you medication with the same effect.

In the same vein, if you are taking supplements that thin the blood, check with your doctor before simultaneously supplementing with resveratrol.

As a general rule, taking resveratrol is contraindicated before surgery.

Potential side-effects

The majority of people who regularly supplement with resveratrol demonstrate good tolerance. However, certain side-effects have been noted, including gastrointestinal problems.

A very favourable risk-benefit ratio

Overall, resveratrol remains an active ingredient with many benefits for cardiovascular health. Apart from eating foods rich in this polyphenol, which resveratrol supplements should you take?

Choosing the right resveratrol supplement

A number of formulations are available catering for a wide range of needs:

References

  1. Renaud S, de Lorgeril M. Wine, alcohol, platelets, and the French paradox for coronary heart disease. Lancet. 1992 Jun 20;339(8808):1523-6. doi: 10.1016/0140-6736(92)91277-f. PMID: 1351198.
  2. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/resveratrol
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