For almost two decades, the benefits of resveratrol and similar phytochemicals have been the focus of much attention from the scientific community. While dark-colored fruits like blueberries, strawberries, and pomegranates contain resveratrol, red- and purple-skinned grapes are especially rich in the chemical. In fact, the main biologically active and well-characterized constituent from (sic.) the grape is resveratro (Yadav et al). Biological and medicinal properties of grapes and their bio-active constituents: an update. Journal of Medicinal Food, June 2009). Thus, as a red wine ingredient, resveratrol is being examined in study after study to determine how it may protect against various diseases and causes of mortality.
The polyphenols, a group of plant chemicals that includes resveratrol, are classified as antioxidants. The function of antioxidants is to seek out and destroy free radicals in the body. These are molecules with odd numbers of electrons. These unpaired electrons are produced by oxidation, or the splitting of the molecule to introduce oxygen and make it unstable. Free radicals attempt to stabilize themselves by stealing electrons from other molecules, and in doing so, can damage parts of cells such as DNA or lipids, ultimately causing cell death. Definition of free radical.
Besides the free radicals that form naturally in the body as byproducts of our metabolism, we are also subjected to environmental free radicals. Pollutants in the environment like pesticides, smoke, and ultraviolet radiation enter our bodies through respiration and through the skin. They increase the load of highly reactive, unstable free radicals in our bodies, causing more chain reactions and more cell death. Scientists have determined that many diseases of aging, such as cancer and heart disease, among others, are caused by damage from free radicals. Since the body’s natural antioxidant mechanism becomes less effective as we grow older, science has sought new plant sources of antioxidants to help fight these diseases. Free Radicals, the enviroment and health.
For example, a study from the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, in June 2009 on the red wine ingredient resveratrol supported its therapeutic potential. According to associate professor Lindsay Brown, corresponding author for the study, resveratrol turns on the cell’s own survival pathways, preventing damage to individual cells (and) removing very reactive oxidants in the body. Resveratrol shows potential for significant health benefits. In such age-related disorders as diabetes, neuro-degenerative diseases, and heart disease, resveratrol thus provides protection by counteracting the effects of oxidation.
As an antioxidant, resveratrol appears effective and potent. It seems certain that all aspects of the red wine ingredient resveratrol will continue to be thoroughly examined and studied in laboratories worldwide.