Resveratrol and Trans-Resveratrol Supplements

Resveratrol and TransresveratrolResveratrol – it’s the antioxidant that makes red wine “healthy”… right?

Sort of. It’s true that resveratrol has a powerful free radical scavenging capacity, but it may not rebalance the toxic effects of alcohol. But when taken away from alcohol as a supplement, resveratrol can protect against oxidative stress, reverse signs of ageing, improve blood sugar control, and may even prolong your life!

Red Wine, Heart Health & the French Paradox

Resveratrol is known as the “red wine molecule” but, in fact, wine contains very little resveratrol compared to whole unprocessed grape skin, blueberries, acai, and even chocolate. Despite this, it’s suspected that resveratrol is partly responsible for the French Paradox – the puzzle of why the French can eat buckets of saturated fats, and yet experience a significantly low rate of coronary heart disease. Resveratrol may be one reason.

The evidence shows that resveratrol may have a protective effective against developing heart disease, and supplementation can help some areas of cardiovascular health in people who are already unwell.

It has been shown to improve the function of blood vessels in people with metabolic disease [3], reduce LDL cholesterol levels in type-2 diabetics [4], and improved ventricle function in patients with stable coronary artery disease [5].

Resveratrol acts as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory in all areas of the cardiovascular system where it strengthens blood vessels, prevents the creation of plaques and clots, and even regulates blood pressure – but note that all of these studies used resveratrol supplements, not red wine!

While an occasional glass of high-quality, organic red wine may reduce the risk of heart disease in some people, everyone’s risk of developing cardiovascular diseases significantly increases under heavy alcohol consumption – even if it is red wine [6]. Stick to supplements… and dark chocolate.


Resveratrol for Longer Life

A study by the Harvard Medical School found that resveratrol may even extend your life.

It has been shown to switch on a gene called SIRT1 which has in turn been shown to extend cellular life. By boosting SIRT1 activity, resveratrol may help to improve mitochondrial activity and energy production during older age [1].

As a powerful antioxidant, resveratrol may also help to protect DNA and prevent cell death. Keep in mind that all of this is still theoretical – all of the studies involved are done on animal cells, not human!


Resveratrol for Blood Sugar Management

Resveratrol has been deeply researched as a powerful anti-diabetic agent. It has five major protective effects against diabetes and insulin resistance:

  1. Improves insulin sensitivity
  2. Restores proper signaling between insulin and cells
  3. Protects pancreatic cells and their ability to secrete insulin
  4. Regulates how much glucose is absorbed and stored in cells
  5. Protects against cardiovascular disease that goes hand-in-hand with diabetes [7]

These effects may largely depend on your state of health. A large meta-analysis of 11 randomized control trials found that resveratrol supplements significantly improve blood glucose control and insulin sensitivity in people with diabetes, but has little effects on people who don’t [9].

  • A 2017 systematic review and meta-analysis of the available evidence concluded that resveratrol supplements can improve glucose and insulin levels in the blood of type-2 diabetics [2], and that doses of over 100mg were far more effective than lower amounts.

We’ll expand on dosage in a moment, but doses of over 500mg per day have been proven to be safe and effective in most people [8]. Speak to a qualified nutritionist before taking resveratrol for personalized advice, particularly if you are taking any medications for diabetes.


Resveratrol & Estrogen

During its metabolism, resveratrol is converted into a stronger metabolite called piceatannol – it has the same effects as resveratrol, just more intense! This conversion occurs in the liver and is facilitated by a detoxification enzyme that also deals with estrogen. Research is investigating whether this interaction is a reason why resveratrol has two conflicting effects on estrogen – in some studies, it increases estrogen activity; in others, it blocks it.

  1. Resveratrol has been shown to block hormone receptors in estrogen-rich areas of the body, such as breast tissue [12], but also to increase estrogen activity throughout all tissues [13].
  2. Animal studies have found that this antioxidant can work with estrogen with reduce blood pressure, protect bones against osteoporosis [14].

The upshot is that there is currently no conclusion about the connection between resveratrol and estrogen, but people with estrogen-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer or ovarian cancer should seek expert medical advice before taking resveratrol supplements.


Monoamines, Depression & Resveratrol

Resveratrol has been identified as a monoamine-inhibitor — this means that it acts in a similar way to many anti-depressant medications by blocking the activity of enzymes that breakdown mood chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and epinephrine. As a strong antioxidant, it may also relieve symptoms of depression by reducing inflammation.

A trial tested resveratrol in a traditional model widely used to evaluate new antidepressant drugs and found that the natural compound could inhibit the breakdown of epinephrine and serotonin in a similar fashion to pharmaceutical anti-depressants [10], and in 2018 a systematic review of 22 studies concluded that resveratrol acts as a strong and effective anti-depressant – at least in animals [11].

Results from human trials aren’t yet available, so we suggest staging your own trial by monitoring your mood after eating lots of blueberries and dark chocolate.


Look Younger for Longer

It’s no wonder that resveratrol is being researched as a potential anti-ageing supplement. Its antioxidant properties work well against the high oxidative stress that skin cells frequently come under, and it has the potential to restore luster to dull or aged skin.

Research on its real-world effects on the skin are challenged though – because resveratrol is quickly metabolized within 30 minutes in the intestines and liver, it is difficult for the antioxidant to reach the areas of the skin within short study periods.

The theory behind resveratrol is legitimate, though – and anecdotal evidence suggests that supplementing can turn back the clock on fine lines and wrinkles.


Trans-resveratrol Vs Resveratrol

Like all molecules in the natural world, resveratrol comes in a few forms – cis- and trans-, referring to the position of side chains on the molecule, and a newly discovered dehydro-resveratrol. All three are found in varying amounts in natural foods, and current research suggests they all work together synergistically [15].

Trans-resveratrol is more readily absorbed than the other forms, and it has the unique ability to cross the blood brain barrier – this means that it may be ideal for people looking for cognitive and mood effects from resveratrol, or to protect against neural conditions.

In the US, “resveratrol” is a blanket term for a supplement that contains any amount of trans-resveratrol. This means that supplements can contain as little as 50% active resveratrol, and still claim to be “pure resveratrol”. Look for trans-resveratrol on the label and ingredients to know how much of a dose you are actually getting.

Some resveratrol supplements contain concentrated grape skin, blueberry or acai to deliver naturally occurring trans-resveratrol in its absorbable state. While doses of resveratrol may be lower in these supplements, they will also contain other antioxidants and cofactors that trans-resveratrol may require for its activity in the human body – just as nature intended. These wholefood supplements may work well for general maintenance, while isolated trans-resveratrol could be more appropriate for people requiring high doses for severe conditions.


How To Take Resveratrol Supplements

Dosage: The therapeutic and safe dosage range for resveratrol spans from 200mg – 1,400mg. As a fairly innocuous antioxidant, dosing at the higher end of the spectrum is unlikely to cause any health issues.

Side Effects: For the most part, resveratrol is innocuous and there is usually no risk of side effects in healthy people. High doses can cause tummy upsets, due to resveratrol’s rapid metabolism in the intestines.

Cautions:

  • Do not take resveratrol if you take warfarin. The two can interact, thin the blood too much, and cause serious adverse reactions.
  • Do not take resveratrol if you are on anti-depressant medications, as it may cause a highly dangerous additive effect.
  • Seek personalised advice before taking resveratrol if you are on hormone replacement therapy, or have a history of estrogen-dependent cancer.

5 Best Resveratrol Supplements

#5 CurEase Pure Trans-Resveratrol (1,600mg, 60 capsules)

Resveratrol Capsules

CurEase have created a resveratrol supplement that blends the best of both worlds – isolated resveratrol and wholefood sources. This supplement contains 1,000mg of resveratrol, with 50% trans-resveratrol, along with grape skin extract and acai berry extract. Altogether, there is the potential of 1,600mg of resveratrol in each capsule, but we’d estimate that it is likely to contain around 600mg of trans-resveratrol total. CurEase have packaged these potent antioxidants into vegan-friendly capsules with no binders, fillers, or flowing agents. This is a great choice if you’re looking for broad coverage antioxidant activity with a potent dose of trans-resveratrol, too.


#4 Country Life Resveratrol Plus (120 capsules, 200mg)

ResveraetrolThis is a great choice for an affordable, middle-range dose of active resveratrol. Each capsule of this blend delivers 200mg of total resveratrol, with 100mg of trans-resveratrol, along with a powerful combination of grape seed, grape skin and pine bark extracts for additional antioxidant support. Each bottle contains a three-month supply or 120 capsules, made with vegan-friendly casings.


#3 Doctor’s Best High Potency Trans-Resveratrol (600mg, 60 capsules)

Doctors Best Resveratrol ExtractDoctor’s Best have taken resveratrol from the root of Japanese knotweed, delivering a concentration of 98% trans-resveratrol! This is the highest percentage we could find. Each capsule delivers 600mg of total resveratrol, as well as polyphenols from the knotweed. This supplement is packaged in vegan-friendly cellulose capsules and is non-GMO, gluten-free and soy-free.


#2 Progressive Labs Trans-Resveratrol (125mg, 60 capsules)

Progressive Labs ResveratrolProgressive Labs have formulated a resveratrol supplement with 150mg of quercetin for added antioxidant support. Each dose delivers 125mg of pure trans-resveratrol from two isolated isomers combined with grape skin extract, Japanese knotweed, and red wine matrix. Progressive Labs have used rice flour as a low-allergen flow agent, and packaged this supplement in vegan-friendly capsules. The quercetin in this supplement will work in conjunction to resveratrol to support heart health and anti-ageing processes. This is a great choice if you’re looking for a strong antioxidant complex.


#1 Life Extension Optimized Resveratrol (250mg, 50 capsules)

Top Rated ResveratrolThis supplement comes at a premium price, and here’s why – it delivers the highest dose of active trans-resveratrol that we could find. Each capsule contains a massive 250mg of the trans-resveratrol isomer from Japanese knotweed, along with 150mg of quercetin and 85mg of grape and wild blueberry powder to deliver polyphenols and other antioxidants. Life Extension have used a high quality vegan-friendly capsules and few flow agents for this non-GMO, potent trans-resveratrol supplement. If you’re looking for the highest dose at the greatest concentration, along with a blend of wholefood sources, you’ve found it!


Further Reading

About James Lyons

James Lyons (BHSc Nutritional Medicine) is a clinical nutritionist, medical writer, and educator. He specialises in plant-based nutrition and is passionate about improving public access to reliable and accurate health information.

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