Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Resveratrol: lasts longer than believed by Jerry Brainum

Resveratrol is a compound found naturally in such sources as grapes, peanuts, berries, and most famously, in red wine. For years, the various health benefits attributed to a moderate intake of red wine--two glasses a day--have thought to come from the resveratrol content of the wine. But red wine doesn't contain a lot of resveratrol, and more recent research suggests that resveratrol is merely a player in a larger team of nutrients that actually are responsible for the observed health benefits of red wine consumption.
   This is not to say that resveratrol itself doesn't provide significant health benefits, but rather that the studies that have shown such benefits have involved animal studies, in which doses of resveratrol equivalent to drinking thousands of bottles of wine have been provided to the lab animals. These benefits have been considerable, such as helping to offset the metabolic syndrome, a precursor of both cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Other studies suggest that resveratrol may provide anti-aging effects. Some even suggest that resveratrol, through activating a cell protective protein called SIRT-1 can mimic some of the beneficial effects of caloric restriction. Caloric restriction remains the only method established to increase longevity in animals. There is no human evidence that CR would work the same way in humans. Resveratrol is thought to provide some of the same benefits as CR, but without the odious reduction in food intake. What the studies actually show, however, is that resveratrol does appear to boost lifespan in obese rats who consume a very high fat (60% of caloric intake) diet. It didn't provide any significant life extension to leaner rats eating a normal diet.
     Critics of resveratrol have often noted the dearth of human research about its putative health effects. They also note resveratrol appears to be rapidly metabolized when orally ingested. Specifically, within 14 minutes following oral intake, resveratrol is conjugated in the liver. This means that it is combined with either sulfate or glucuronide compounds. Some have hypothesized that this liver-induced change in resveratrol renders resveratrol unavailable to cells, thereby making it useless.Because of this, those who are into various suggested "anti-aging" therapies have opted to go around the suggested resveratrol metabolic roadblock by ingesting huge doses of resveratrol in the hope that ingesting such megadoses will provide the various health benefits of resveratrol. In fact, ingesting such large doses may be hazardous to health, since some research suggests that while resveratrol normally provides antioxidant activity, when you consume it in large doses, it acts as a pro-oxidant, which can paradoxically damage cells. One recent study showed that resveratrol provided to those who suffer from multiple sclerosis may worsen symptoms of the disease.
     But according to a new study from Great Britain, the notion that resveratrol is rendered biologically inert within minutes is wrong. In fact, the study showed that resveratrol complexed with sulfates is reduced by enzymes in the cell that remove the sulfate portion, thus converting the compound into pure resveratrol, which is active in the cell. The study, which involved mice, found that providing the rodents with resveratrol did result in increased blood levels of free or unconjugated resveratrol in the blood, and in various other tissues. When human colon cancer cells were exposed to the resveratrol, resveratrol caused the cancer cells to self-destruct, and also produced a rapid aging effect in the cancer cells, which also led to the destruction of the cells.
   Perhaps the best news is that you don't need to ingest huge doses of resveratrol to obtain the health benefits. Now that it's established that resveratrol is indeed absorbed into cells following oral ingestion, the next studies should determine the precise optimal doses of the nutrient that would provide maximum health benefits with few, if any risks. Also, while these new findings involved lab animals, and also isolated human cancer cells, the mechanisms involved both are known to exist in the human body. This suggests that the findings of the study are likely also applicable to human physiology.

   Patel, KR, et al. Sulfate metabolites provide an intracellular pool for resveratrol generation and induce autophagy with senescence. Sci Trans Medicine 2013;5:205ra133.      

 ©,2013 Jerry Brainum. Any reprinting in any type of media, including electronic and foreign is expressly prohibited.

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