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Secret of Resveratrol, Red Wine Health Benefits Spilled

Red wine contains resveratrol

Chances are you’ve heard that resveratrol and red wine offer lots of health benefits, from helping your heart to promoting anti-aging. Now scientists from the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) say they have uncovered the secret of why resveratrol is such a health bonanza.

What is the secret target of resveratrol?

Resveratrol has been the topic of much discussion and research because it has demonstrated critically important health benefits, including anticancer, anti-inflammatory, and diabetes prevention advantages. “However, before researchers can transform resveratrol into a safe and effective medicine,” explained Jay H. Chung, MD, PhD, “they need to know exactly what it targets in cells.”

Chung, who was the lead author of the study conducted at the Laboratory of Obesity and Aging Research at the NHLBI, and his colleagues uncovered the secret to what resveratrol targets in a study in mice, and it turns out it isn’t sirtuin 1.

Sirtuin 1 is a protein associated with the aging process and has been touted by some as the anti-aging gene. Previous research has suggested it is the main target of resveratrol.

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However, Chung and his team discovered that resveratrol inhibits phosphodiesterases (PDEs), which are proteins (enzymes) with a critical role in regulating cell energy. Their experiments showed that resveratrol targets a specific PDE in skeletal muscle called PDE4. When resveratrol inhibits PDE4, it triggers a series of activities within the cell, and one of the activities is indirect activation of sirtuin 1.

It is not possible to get an adequate amount (about 1 gram) of resveratrol from eating red grapes or drinking red wine. In fact, studies suggest people would need to consume about 667 bottles of red wine to get 1 gram of the phytonutrient. Therefore, supplements and/or resveratrol drugs appear to be the answer.

This study showed resveratrol to be a PDE4 inhibitor, and therefore provides groundwork for research for developing new medications for cancer, inflammatory conditions, and diabetes. A PDE4 inhibitor drug called roflumilast (Daliresp®, for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) has already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Although it appears scientists have uncovered the secret of resveratrol’s health benefits, this is only one step—albeit an important one—on the road to developing resveratrol as a drug.

Park S-J, Ahmad F, Philip A, Baar et al. Resveratrol ameliorates aging-related metabolic phenotypes by inhibiting cAMP phosphodiesterases. Cell 2012 Feb 3; 148(3): 421-33

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