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How The Resveratrol In Red Wine Works To Your Benefit

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resveratrol-in-red-wine-has-health-benefits George Doyle/Stockbyte/Thinkstock

Resveratrol is the much-talked-about plant chemical found in red grapes and some other fruits that goes into making red wine beneficial, if taken in moderate amounts.

Researchers at National Institutes of Health have now found out exactly how this resveratrol works for us.

Resveratrol is a natural phenol that some plants produce as a defence to attack from bacteria or fungi. In recent years, several experiments conducted on rats have shown resveratrol to have anticancer, anti-inflammatory, pro-cardiovascular properties. However, the extent of such benefits is much less in trials with humans.

The scientists found that resveratrol inhibits the production of certain types of proteins known as phosphodiesterases (PDEs). PDEs are known to regulate cell energy.

PDE inhibitors have the potential to enhance or amplify the effect of physiological processes in the body and so are considered to be therapeutically beneficial in managing conditions such as coronary heart disease, dementia, depression, and schizophrenia.

So how does this affect the consumer? The understanding of the mechanism of the action of resveratrol settles the debate on resveratrol’s biochemistry and makes way for drugs based on resveratrol.

As per the lead author Jay H. Chung, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the Laboratory of Obesity and Aging Research at the NIH's National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, “Resveratrol has potential as a therapy for diverse diseases such as type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and heart disease. However, before researchers can transform resveratrol into a safe and effective medicine, they need to know exactly what it targets in cells.” (1)

Several previous studies suggested that resveratrol's primary target is sirtuin 1. Chung and colleagues suspected otherwise when they found that resveratrol activity required another protein called AMPK. This would not be the case if resveratrol directly interacted with sirtuin 1.

It was earlier believed that resveratrol targeted sirtuin 1, a class of proteins controlling important biological pathways and having been found to be involved in processes of aging, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, apoptosis, energy efficiency, etc.

This theory was proved to be only partially correct. During the research, it was found that resveratrol only indirectly targets sirtuin 1. The process cannot take place without the aid of an enzyme known as AMPK.

AMPK plays critical roles in complex biochemical processes such as inhibition of cholesterol synthesis, triglyceride synthesis, muscle glucose uptake, and modulation of insulin secretion by pancreatic beta-cells.

The scientists systematically observed the metabolic activity of cells which they had treated with resveratrol, and noted that PDE4 in the skeletal muscles of mice were inhibited, and the main target of resveratrol, and one which actually conferred the health benefits. Once PDE4 was inhibited, a series of events was triggered which eventually affected sirtuin 1.

PDE4 was also inhibited using a drug called rolipram (an inflammatory PDE inhibitor) to re-test the study’s observations. This study suggests that PDE4 inhibitors offer benefits that resveratrol provides, without necessarily dealing with the side effects of long-term resveratrol usage, such as increased chances of developing breast cancer, etc.

According to Robert Balaban, Ph.D., director of the NHLBI Division of Intramural Research, “As Dr. Chung's work suggests, the effects of resveratrol seem to be more complicated than originally thought. However, this new insight into the phosphodiesterases (PDE) might prove an interesting avenue to pursue.” (2)


1. Probable Mechanism Underlying Resveratrol Activity Uncovered: Chemical Found in Red Wine and Other Foods; Science Daily News; February 2012; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120202151133.htm

2. NIH study uncovers probable mechanism underlying resveratrol activity; NIH News; February 2012; http://public.nhlbi.nih.gov/newsroom/home/GetPressRelease.aspx?id=2828

Technical report of the study may be had at:
1. Resveratrol Ameliorates Aging-Related Metabolic Phenotypes by Inhibiting cAMP Phosphodiesterases; Cell; February 2012; http://www.cell.com/retrieve/pii/S009286741200030X


Mamta Singh is a published author of the books Migraines for the Informed Woman – Tips From A Sufferer: ISBN: 978-81-291-1517-1 (Publisher: Rupa & Co. URL: http://www.amazon.com/Migraines-Informed-Woman-Tips-Sufferer/dp/8129115174/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1298990756&sr=1-2), Mentor Your Mind – Tested Mantras For The Busy Woman: ISBN: 978-81-207-5973-2 (Publisher: Sterling Publishers; URL: http://www.amazon.com/Mentor-Your-Mind-Tested-Mantras/dp/8120759737/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1316063179&sr=8-1) and the upcoming Women’s Complete Fitness Guide (Publisher: Hay House India).

She is also a seasoned business, creative and academic writer. She is a certified fitness instructor, personal trainer & sports nutritionist through IFA, Florida USA. Mamta is an NCFE-certified Holistic Health Therapist SAC Dip U.K. She is the lead writer and holds Expert Author status in many well-received health, fitness and nutrition sites.

She runs her own popular blogs on migraines in women and holistic health. Mamta holds a double Master's Degree in Commerce and Business. She is a registered practitioner with the UN recognised Art of Living Foundation. Please visit www.mamtasingh.com

Reviewed March 6, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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