How do the French have such a bad diet by eating more fat, sugar and fatty foods, plus drink more wine, but yet still have less heart health issues? The answer to this puzzling question, commonly known as the “French paradox,” is believed to be due to a higher intake of a particular phytonutrient called resveratrol, found naturally in foods like red wine. Like other antioxidants and phytonutrients, such as lycopene found in tomatoes or lutein found in carrots, resveratrol is a potent compound that regenerates the body all the way at the cellular level.

Studies made over the past several decades in many different medical journals, including the European Journal of Food Pharmacology and American Journal of Hypertension, found that resveratrol decreases the risk of heart disease among other common health concerns. Although we might not have known exactly how wine was able to promote better health, even Plato developed the health perks of drinking it in moderation. He’s been quoted as saying, “Nothing more excellent or valuable than wine was ever granted by the gods to man.”

You don’t have to be a wine drinker to benefit from resveratrol. Other sources include deeply- colored berries and real dark chocolate/cocoa, but the most efficient way is through a supplement. Along with helping to keep arteries clear from plaque buildup and protecting a heart getting older, this phytonutrient has many other health benefits too — including reducing inflammation, potentially contributing to prevent obesity and protecting cognitive health among the elderly.

What Is Resveratrol?

Resveratrol is a polyphonic bioflavonoid antioxidant that’s produced by individual plants and found in foods and drinks that are known to halt the effects of aging. Resveratrol is known as a phytoestrogen because of its ability to interact with estrogen receptors positively. Plants that produce resveratrol and other types of antioxidants do so partly as a defense mechanism and response to stressors within their environments, including radiation, the presence of insects or other predators, injury, and fungal infections. Resveratrol today is known to be one of the strongest protectors against symptoms associated with aging and free radical damage.

Researchers show that the most naturally abundant sources of resveratrol are plants, such as the skin of red grapes, red wine, raw cocoa, and dark berries, such as lingonberries, blueberries, mulberries, and bilberries. Red wine is probably the best-known source, mostly due to its high levels thanks to the fermentation process that turns grape juice into alcohol. During the making of red wine, grape seeds and skins ferment in the grape’s juices, which has a positive effect on levels and availability of resveratrol.

The main benefits of resveratrol were first discovered when scientists found that yeast and other microbes, insects, and animals had resveratrol, experienced an increased lifespan as a result. Various studies continued to confirm that has amazing anti-aging benefits, shown in studies conducted on animal and insects like fruit flies, fish, mice and nematode worms, all of which had longer lives compared to control groups that were not treated with this phytonutrient.

5 Resveratrol Benefits

1. Has Anti-Aging and Anti-Cancer Effects

Resveratrol is a very powerful antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals produced during common bodily functions, such as eating and exercise. Damage is accelerated due to poor lifestyle habits like smoking, eating an unhealthy diet, and in response to the environments pollution and toxins. If left unchecked, free radicals can damage cells and are thought to be a cause of life-threatening diseases and earlier death. Eating plant foods high in antioxidants and phytonutrients have been shown to offer antioxidative, anticarcinogenic and antitumor benefits that protect adults from many age-related diseases.

According to research published by the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Seville in Spain, “One of the most unusual biological activities of resveratrol soundly investigated during the late years has been its cancer chemopreventive potential. Recently it has been demonstrated that it blocks the multistep process of carcinogenesis at various stages: tumor initiation, promotion, and progression.”

It’s also believed that the mechanisms for its cancer-protecting activities involve downregulation of the inflammatory response to inhibition of synthesis and release of pro-inflammatory mediators, among other activities.

2. Protects Cardiovascular Health

Because its anti-inflammatory, resveratrol has been shown to offer great protection against atherosclerosis, high LDL which is bad cholesterol, the formation of blood clots and myocardial infarction. Consuming more has also been shown to help improve circulation and have beneficial effects on glucose and lipid metabolism in some with a higher risk for metabolic syndrome.

3. Helps Protect the Brain and Cognitive/Mental Health

Resveratrol is unique as its antioxidants can cross the blood-brain barrier to protect the brain and the nervous system, unlike other antioxidants that cannot. Many recent studies done by scientists at the Nutrition Research Center at Northumbria University in the U.K. shows that resveratrol will noticeably increase blood flow to the brain, suggesting a considerable benefit to healthy brain function and neuroprotective effects.

This can mean consuming more can increase protection against cognitive and mental problems, such as Alzheimer’s, dementia and others. Other studies find, such results published in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, demonstrated that even a single infusion of resveratrol could elicit neuroprotective effects on cerebral (brain) neuronal loss and damage. These results from increased free radical scavenging and cerebral blood elevation due to resveratrol’s effects.

4. May Help Prevent Obesity

Findings in animal studies have found that resveratrol exerts positive effects on rodents fed a high-calorie diet, helping prevent fat storage and regulating insulin levels. Others research has shown that resveratrol may contribute to reducing body weight and adiposity in obese animals, which some experts believe is due to activating the SIRT1 gene that’s thought to protect the body against the effects of obesity.

It’s not clear how this translates to humans consuming foods or drinks like wine and berries. However, studies have found links between adults eating balanced diets that include moderate amounts of wine and healthier body weights.

5. Benefits Those with Diabetes or Pre-diabetes

Studies involving diabetic rats have shown that resveratrol can be able to reduce hyperglycemia and may also be of use in preventing and treating both obesity and diabetes. Resveratrol can be helpful for those with diabetes and prediabetes by reducing complications such as nerve damage and damage to the heart and helping manage insulin levels. It’s also known that this phytoestrogen positively affects insulin secretion and blood insulin concentrations, according to animal studies.