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Resveratrol is probably best known as a polyphenol found in red wine, though it is also found in red grapes (that’s why it’s in wine, too), apples, peanuts, and more. It’s a terrific antioxidant, as are most polyphenols.

Resveratrol is unique among polyphenols, though, for some of its other impressive characteristics.

Resveratrol for Anti-Aging and Longevity

Resveratrol is one of the darlings of the longevity world. It protects against outward signs of aging due to sun exposure and subsequent oxidative stress.

But resveratrol’s benefits are more than just cosmetic. It sets off a biochemical cascade that ultimately raises NAD+ and sirtuin activity. NAD+ is important for ATP production, the body’s energy currency produced in the mitochondria. NAD+ thus improves metabolic efficiency, and it’s required for the anti-aging activity of sirtuin proteins.

Resveratrol also activates AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which likewise stimulates the mitochondria to produce more ATP while simultaneously conserving the ATP that is already present. AMPK can be stimulated by fasting and intermittent fasting, and suppressed by obesity and overeating. But it’s possible to affect AMPK by nutrients alone, as well. Resveratrol is one of the nutrients that can do so.

Polyphenols generally, of which resveratrol is one, can also inhibit mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin), which in turn triggers autophagy (the body’s natural “clean-up” process of breaking down cells that aren’t working optimally, so that new ones can take their place). Autophagy is very associated with longevity. While mTOR also goes up with specifically protein intake, and down with fasting, polyphenols, such as resveratrol, can lower mTOR as well.

Moreover, telomeres are somewhat analogous to the hourglass of time, and have long been considered the primary marker of biological aging. These are the DNA “caps” on the ends of chromosomes, and they get a little shorter every time the cells divide. When they get so short that the cell can no longer divide, the cell dies. But unlike time itself, telomere length isn’t in a fixed relationship with the calendar; telomere length can be protected from premature shortening. Resveratrol is one of the nutrients that can do this. 

Resveratrol as an Antimicrobial

Resveratrol, also known as Japanese Knotweed, is one of the core herbs frequently used for Lyme Disease due to its antimicrobial properties. It doesn’t only kill the organisms, but it also decreases biofilms, making them easier to kill, keeps them from communicating with one another, and decreases their biotoxin production at the same time.

Resveratrol is effective against not just bacteria, but also viruses, and fungi as well.

Resveratrol for Brain and Intestinal Barrier Support

Resveratrol has the unique distinction of being able to cross the blood brain barrier, which is probably why it is able to improve cognition, and protect neuronal energy.

The gut and the brain are closely linked; what crosses one barrier often crosses the other. Possibly for this reason, resveratrol is also helpful for balancing the gut microbiome and protecting the intestinal barrier.

Resveratrol Protects Against Cancer

Most antioxidants are considered anti-cancer, if for no other reason than by virtue of the fact that they can protect against the DNA damage that can lead to the mutations that later turn into cancer. But resveratrol takes this a step further; it’s been shown to actively halt the progression of cancer cell differentiation.

Resveratrol Helps Balance Blood Sugar

To round out the picture of protection against the most common Western diseases, resveratrol also helps to improve insulin sensitivity and decrease common markers of metabolic syndrome, including elevated glucose, hypertension, and elevated blood lipids.

The Upshot

While it is generally difficult if not impossible to get resveratrol from food-based sources at the levels represented by the studies mentioned, certainly food-based consumption cannot be a bad thing. And as far as individual nutrients to take from a longevity standpoint, resveratrol stands out for consideration.