The Spartan Guide to Resveratrol
The Claim This compound has received a ton of attention for its anti-aging and disease-fighting properties. But what is resveratrol, really? It’s a kind of polyphenol, a micronutrient that works like an antioxidant by protecting the body against damaging free radicals that increase the risk of conditions like heart disease and cancer. It’s found in the skin of red grapes (and thus, red wine), but it’s also in peanuts and berries.
The Evidence The thinking behind resveratrol’s youth-preserving, disease-nullifying power is that it may activate your body’s SIRT1 gene, which is thought to protect against obesity and aging-related diseases. But despite the headlines you may have seen on health sites, experts aren’t totally convinced that resveratrol is the panacea it claims to be. They stress that while resveratrol has potential, there’s just not enough literature yet to prove that it does all it claims to.
That said, there’s reason to be hopeful; early research is promising. Studies (generally in test tubes and animals) hint that resveratrol could limit cancer cells’ ability to spread and even help kill them off. It may also fight the buildup of plaque that leads to Alzheimer’s, lower inflammation and LDL (bad cholesterol), and lower the risk of heart attack by making it harder for blood to form clots. All that said, the dosages used in studies tend to be much higher than what you’ll receive in supplement form. Most pills range from 250 to 500 milligrams (mg), while studies had people on more than 2,000 mg per day.
“In the past 10 years, we’ve realized it’s very helpful in decreasing overall risk for heart disease,” says Svetlana Kogan, M.D., a family physician in New York City and author of Diet Slave No More. “It’s gained so much popularity that even Costco makes these huge jars of resveratrol now.” In the United States, most resveratrol pills are made from an Asian plant called Polygonum cuspidatum, but a few are made from red-grape extract.
How to Use It As a supplement, resveratrol should be taken in pill form once daily. Fortunately, there are no known side effects, says Dr. Kogan. And it doesn’t matter whether you take it with food or on an empty stomach.
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