If someone told me that watching trashy reality TV and eating ice cream could help improve my health, I’d give them a big hug and immediately follow the doctor’s orders. So, imagine my joy in learning that red wine is not just a relaxing treat after a long day, but truly is good for my health.
Red wine (along with grape skins, mulberries, peanuts and cocoa powder) contains an amazing antioxidant called resveratrol. Resveratrol had garnered a lot of interest over the past few years due to its benefits as a phytoestrogen, anti-inflammatory and anticarcinogenic nutrient. And now the news gets even better. Two separate studies have found that resveratrol also helps reduce vascular inflammation and ease chronic fatigue.
Resveratrol Helps Control Atherosclerosis
According to a new study from the European Journal of Pharmacology, resveratrol helps protect you from heart disease, namely atherosclerosis.
It is well accepted that LDL cholesterol contributes to atherogenesis, or plaque buildup within the arteries. This, in turn, is what leads to atherosclerosis, or blocked arteries. And, as you can image, that leads to some pretty serious heart-related health issues.
Over the past few years, we have learned that, when it comes to atherosclerosis, it isn’t LDL cholesterol per se, that’s the issue. The problem occurs when LDL cholesterol becomes oxidized, or inflamed. To counteract this, several studies have looked at using antioxidants, such as vitamin E, to prevent oxidation.
Armed with this understanding, researchers looked to see if plant-based antioxidants resveratrol and quercetin could help reduce inflammation and oxidation of LDL cholesterol, thereby helping prevent atherosclerosis.
Using a cell culture consisting of human umbilical cells from the inner lining of a vein, researchers created a control group, an LDL group and an oxidized LDL group. They found that both resveratrol and quercetin had very specific interactions with the cell cultures.
Resveratrol prevented the growth of LDL cholesterol cells, while also preventing oxidation from occurring in the oxidized LDL cells. Moreover, resveratrol helped partially avoid an inflammatory response in the oxidized LDL cells. To put it even more simply, resveratrol helped keep LDL cholesterol under control, and inflammation and oxidation free.
Quercetin, on the other hand, was … interesting. It too helped prevent the growth of LDL cells, as well as helping keep oxidation from occurring in the oxidized LDL cells. In fact, the quercetin flat out inhibited LDL oxidation. But, and this is a big “but,” quercetin seemed to trigger an inflammatory response in oxidized LDL cells.
Researchers concluded that resveratrol in particular seems to be a “potent” agent for the treatment of atherosclerosis, thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. And while they reiterated the benefits of quercetin, they raised a caution flag due to its pro-inflammatory response.
Regain Energy With Resveratrol
In a separate study from the Kanazawa Medical University in Japan, researchers tested the effects of resveratrol on mice with chronic fatigue syndrome.
Now, clearly, it is difficult to determine if a mouse has chronic fatigue, as the symptoms are such that they need to be communicated from the patient to the physician in order to receive the diagnosis. This is because the symptoms are often along the lines of impaired concentration, attention and memory, and may be accompanied by headaches or overall exhaustion. Not easy things for a mouse to explain. Therefore, chronic fatigue needed to be induced.
Researchers divided 23 eight-week-old mice into three groups. One group was the control group and just went about their day. The other two groups were injected with a Brucella abortus solution, which created a chronic fatigue condition in the mice. They were given these injections every two weeks for 12 weeks.
After chronic fatigue was detected and shown to be in effect, researchers gave one of the chronic fatigue mice groups a liquid solution containing resveratrol every day for four weeks. At the end of the study period, researchers found that the resveratrol group had a 20 percent increase in daily running activity (on a wheel).
In previous studies, the researchers found that mice that were induced with chronic fatigue-like symptoms not only had decreased energy, but also had brain atrophy, and a reduction in size and weight of the hippocampus, the area of the brain primarily responsible for memory and behavior.
So, it was interesting that, in this study, researchers found that the mice in the resveratrol group had larger and heavier hippocampuses. There was also greater hippocampal nerve growth and less hippocampal nerve cell death in the resveratrol mice.
Researchers concluded that, while resveratrol clearly helped boost energy levels in the chronic fatigue mice, as evidenced by the improved daily running activity, it also improved brain atrophy, likely by repressing cell death and promoting new cell growth.
Drink Your Wine
Yep, that’s right! Turns out wine IS good for you! But, like all things, in moderation. Even sunshine can burn if you get too much, so keep the wine consumption to no more than one 4-ounce glass a day, and aim for red wine, which contains more resveratrol than white.
If you don’t care for wine or don’t drink alcohol, you can opt for resveratrol supplements. The commonly recommended dosage is 200 mg of resveratrol, standardized to at least 8 percent total resveratrols, mixed with flavonoids for better bioavailability.
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