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Resveratrol

 grapes and wine

Resveratrol is an antioxidant produced by several plants including grape vines, blueberries, peanuts and knotweeds. The compound helps protect such plants from attack by pathogens such as bacteria or fungi. Resveratrol has also been produced by chemical synthesis and is sold as a nutritional supplement derived primarily from Japanese knotweed. All the knotweeds including russian vine contain high concentrations of resveratrol, especially in the young stems.

It came to the notice of researchers primarily through observation of the 'French Paradox' - the fact that the French, who consume relatively large amounts of saturated fats, do not suffer from the high levels of coronary heart disease experience in the US and other Western countries. They tentatively identified high consumption of red wine and its protective effects as an explanation (although the fact is that the correlation between saturated fat and heart disease is far from proven). However the French also tend to smoke more than their neighbours yet do not show proportionately higher rates of lung cancer, another possible indication of a protective effect.

A Pubmed search for resveratrol shows more than 5,275 articles describing a large array of pharmacological benefits including antioxidant, cardioprotective, antidiabetic, anticancer, antiviral, neuroprotective, antiplatelet, anti-inflammatory and modulation of fat metabolism. Mouse studies also indicate that resveratrol is protective against alcohol-induced fatty liver, and may help reverse the condition. Both experimental (mouse) and anecdotal evidence indicates that it increases stamina in mammals including humans, by stimulating mitochondrial activity.

Resveratrol has been shown at times to extend the life span of yeast, mice, nematode worms, fish and other organisms, by activating a gene, SIRT1, which is normally only activated by a calorie-restricted diet, long known to increase the average lifespans of many species. In mouse and rat experiments, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, blood-sugar-lowering, chelating and other beneficial cardiovascular effects of resveratrol have been reported, but these results have yet to be verified in humans.

It has been claimed that supplementation with resveratrol can reverse graying hair, improve mood, increase immune respsonse, help with weight loss and enhance sexuality, but there have been no formal studies to verify these claims. There is now also a proprietary version of resveratrol, SRT501, which is under trial in India for use against diabetes, but as natural resveratol cannot be patented, there is a general lack of human studies on its effects, and most evidence for its benefits is anecdotal.

A glass a day

Many studies have linked moderate alcohol consumption with a reduced risk of heart disease. While this probably due more to stress reduction, wine is rich in antioxidants including resveratrol, and in moderate quantity is almost certainly beneficial. Italian researchers claim it is good for the teeth and gums and may slow the progression of dementia, while Swedish scientists have found that wine, of whatever colour, stabilises erratic pulse in women. But the bad news is that more than one glass a day supposedly increases the risk of bowel cancer.

Supplements

Resveratrol supplements based on extracts of knotweeds (Polygonum, Fallopia species) are increasingly available. These range from capsules of dried, macerated stem or root material to highly concentrated extracts. A typical supplemental intake would be about 250mg standardised resveratrol a day.

The more adventurous can also make their own 'tea' by gathering and drying fresh leaves from invasive japanese knotweed or russian vine growing in their gardens or on wasteland. All parts of the plant contain resveratrol, and the stems or roots can also be dried and ground in a pepper mill or blender to make teas.

A heaped teaspoon of the crushed, dried material is then infused in boiling water to make a distinctively flavoured herbal tea. Of course, other 'teas' such as green tea or berry mixes can be added to make a personal blend.

Japanese knotweed

Contraindications:

Resveratrol makes platelets in the bloodstream less 'sticky' and may increase the risk of internal bleeding in people taking warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), aspirin, ibuprofen, or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

 

 

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