I’ll drink to that! | Resveratrol and Pinot Noir
Resveratrol has been studied and touted as powerful antioxidant since the 1970s. In the 1990s, when scientists tried to explain how the French were able to eat rich, fatty foods like foie gras without suffering high incidences of cardiovascular disease (“The French Paradox”), resveratrol-rich red wine was thought to be the key.
During a shopping expedition in downtown Las Vegas, we came upon a beauty stand promoting skin products made with resveratrol. This particular company has gone so far as to create a collection of beauty products based on different red grapes such as Merlot, Cabernet and Pinot Noir. We had yet to cross the barrier of trans-dermal application in our continuing education of this popular phenomenon.
Following a recent study report in Frontiers in Physiology, we now learn that humans traveling to Mars might benefit from a daily moderate supplementation of resveratrol to mitigate muscle impairment. When a Vietnamese acupuncturist told me that the Chinese often dip herbal plants in red wine before drying them for use in phytotherapy, I was prompted to publish an article on this passionate topic.
Resveratrol is a plant compound in the class of phytoalexins, and a stilbenoid or natural phenol, that is synthesized by plants such as grape vines, peanut plants, cocoa bushes, and berry producing shrubs from the Vaccinium family including blueberries, raspberries, mulberries and cranberries. When infected with bacteria or fungi, or harmed by cutting, crushing, or ultraviolet radiation, this compound is produced by the plant. Since red wine is fermented with crushed grapes, it is particularly high in resveratrol.
Not all antioxidants are created equal. Resveratrol is unique because it can cross the blood-brain barrier, or the membrane that helps protects the brain and nervous system, as an active inhibitor of both inflammation and oxidative stress. Diverse studies over the past 30 years have suggested resveratrol as a blood pressure reducer, lipid oxidation minimizer and preventer (increasing the good levels of HDL and reducing the bad levels of LDL), brain protector (particularly Alzheimer’s) and anticancer agent (by increasing glutathione levels, preventing cancer cells from replicating and spreading).
It has been said that supplementation by extraction of resveratrol from the plant is a more efficient method of absorption than eating red grapes and drinking red wine; however, scientific studies on the therapeutic impact of resveratrol supplements remain, so far, inconclusive.
In the meantime, we do know for a fact that wines such as Malbec, Petite Syrah, St. Laurent and Pinot Noir have the highest resveratrol content. For those who enjoy red wine or red grapes, the palatable prospect of a drinking glass of red or a munching on a fresh cluster of Pinot Noir grapes combined with potential health benefits outweighs swallowing a gelatin covered pill. I’ll drink to that!