Resveratrol is part of a group of compounds referred to as “polyphenols.”
They’re naturally found in plants, including Japanese knotweed (which is contained in our vegan collagen booster, FYI).
Polyphenols are bioactive compounds, which are believed to function like antioxidants.
A headline published under Harvard Medical School reads: “Resveratrol – the hype continues.” But is resveratrol just that – hype? While Harvard takes a cautiously optimistic approach to the suggested health benefits of resveratrol, research demonstrates potent biological activity.
The study they reference, in Cell, demonstrates that resveratrol might have anti-aging and protective functions.
This includes the “prevention of diet-induced obesity and an increase in mitochondrial function (1).” They extrapolate their findings to propose that polyphenols like resveratrol may protect against metabolic disease and aging.
Japanese knotweed is a potent source of resveratrol
Back to resveratrol. What is it?
Resveratrol is a compound within plants that they manufacture to ward off fungi, bacteria, and other pathogenic microbes (2).
Resveratrol is naturally found in red grapes, blueberries, cranberries, mulberries, and some nuts – namely pistachios. Resveratrol is also found in the roots of Japanese knotweed plants.
This plant is a hard-to-eradicate invader in North America that often outcompetes other natural vegetation, which makes resveratrol extracted from Japanese knotweed an environmentally friendly product (3).
While Japanese knotweed is detrimental to the environment, it is extremely useful as a high-quality source of resveratrol. Japanese knotweed can be supplemented separately and is common in naturopathic medicine. Despite this, most of the benefits ascribed to it are a result of its high resveratrol content.
Health benefits ascribed to resveratrol
The health benefits of resveratrol have been examined in a lot of animal and human studies.
Resveratrol effectively reduces free radicals and oxidants, and inhibits LDL (bad cholesterol) oxidation, while increasing antioxidant enzymes like superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione (4).
This is one reason we have included it in our collagen formula. Increased antioxidant production and reduced free radicals mean better skin health.
Other studies have pointed out that resveratrol may have anti-cancer properties, antibacterial properties, antiviral effects, anti-obesity effects, and cardiovascular protective effects (5, 6.
Chiefly, resveratrol is beneficial for atherosclerosis and cardiovascular health. In animal studies, resveratrol enhanced vasorelaxation, improved blood flow, and protected against type 2 diabetes.
The ability of resveratrol to act as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant also means it may have neuroprotective properties, helping to preserve memory and reduce stroke risk (7). These types of supplements help protect multiple systems within the body, rather than having a single therapeutic effect.
Decreased levels of proinflammatory cytokines and increased levels of T cells offer a huge boost to the function of the immune system too (8).
Are there any risks associated with resveratrol?
While resveratrol is generally regarded as safe, especially in lower doses like those contained in our vegan collagen supplement – there are risk factors to consider.
Resveratrol has anti-clotting activity, making the platelets in the blood less “sticky” and reducing the ability of them to clump together. This is the same action of blood thinners like warfarin (Coumadin) and NSAIDs like aspirin.
Anyone already on blood thinners or NSAIDs should consult with a healthcare professional before beginning a resveratrol supplement due to the increased risk of bleeding.
The other concern is that resveratrol – like many other plant compounds – can potentially act as a phytoestrogen. In fact, in various studies, resveratrol was found to act as both an estrogen agonist and antagonist – depending on several factors.
These actions may be relevant to some beneficial effects, and in low doses is not an issue for most women (9).
Thankfully, resveratrol does not appear to have any side effects when used in low doses (1000 mg per day). At doses of 2.5g or higher (much higher than those contained in our supplements), transient side effects like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea were reported (10).
No long-term or major side effects were reported in long-term clinical trials (11). Resveratrol was even found to be safe and well-tolerated at doses of up to 5g per day (12).
In diseased hypercholesterolemic rabbits, doses of 1000 mg or 300 mg per day resulted in no side effects, while 3000 mg per day caused dehydration, anemia, and liver toxicity.
A wide range of resveratrol doses in human and animal test subjects have been studied.
Generally, at low doses, especially those in our supplement, there are no toxic side effects. While resveratrol was found to induce cell death in cancer (tumor) tissues, it does not effect normal adjacent tissue (13).
Should you take resveratrol or Japanese knotweed?
The “health benefits” ascribed to red wine is likely due to resveratrol – a compound also found in various berries, nuts, and Japanese knotweed.
In its own right, when extracted, resveratrol exhibits many potential biological effects.
As we mentioned, it is linked to improved neurological function, lowered blood pressure, lowered cholesterol levels, increased antioxidant production, lowered inflammation, lowered oxidative stress, and improved cardiovascular function.
TL;DR: It’s good for skin health, brain health, and heart health.
So, is resveratrol or Japanese knotweed worth supplementing with?
Well, we include a small amount in our Earth & Elle Vegan Collagen – for all the aforementioned reasons. Increased antioxidant production and reduced inflammation can promote better complexion, hair growth, and immune function. Less DNA damage.
Those looking to add a resveratrol supplement separately to their stack might want to consult with a naturopath or practitioner first, to see if the product is right for them.
There’s been a lot of studies to reaffirm the safety of resveratrol – even when consumed in large doses long-term.
However, research is still growing and nothing is conclusive. Those who take prescription medication want to exercise some caution. Broadly speaking, evidence pretty clearly supports the use of resveratrol as a potent and safe natural supplement.