Resveratrol And Aging: Everything You Need To Know

Antioxidants are a major constituent of some health products due to their ability to reduce or prevent radicals from causing harm to our body cells. For this reason, you will find them in many supplements, smoothies and skincare products, and because antioxidants work by neutralizing free radicals, they are also called free-radical scavengers. Many new commodities in the market have been branded as the next big thing, thanks to their rich antioxidant constituents.

The human body is capable of producing antioxidants, however, they are also available from artificial sources. Plants are the major natural sources of antioxidants while artificial types may be found in supplements.

Scientists have investigated some antioxidants for their role in preventing diseases caused by oxidative stress. Among the antioxidants studied are CoQ10, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, lycopene, beta-carotene, and glutathione (sometimes called the master antioxidant). They have been linked to anti-inflammation, anti-aging, and chronic disease prevention, and in general, antioxidants are important for keeping your skin looking ‘fresh’.

While talks about the benefits of antioxidants continue, a compound known as resveratrol has been tipped to have anti-aging properties. The question is, does resveratrol help slow aging? Can it make you look young forever? Well, some studies have suggested that resveratrol has some unique properties that promote and maintain healthy living.

In this article, we shall be discussing resveratrol and its potential anti-aging abilities.

Resveratrol: Can It Make You Look Young Forever?

By classification or definition, resveratrol is a polyphenolic compound that is found in the skin of grapes, berries, peanuts, and dark chocolate.

This chemical is released by some plants as a defensive substance when the plant is attacked by fungi, bacteria or when exposed to excessive UV. It is also produced by plants in response to nutrient deficit. This phenolic constituent of some plants helps them to survive, sustain, and repair damages under such stressful conditions. Some studies have found an association between resveratrol and similar health benefits in humans.

The ability of this compound to scavenge free radicals that cause oxidative damage to cells is the reason why it is used as an anti-aging substance. It is also believed to repair oxidative damage to cells caused by unstable radicals.

1. Antioxidant Support

As you age, your organs, tissues, and cells begin to wear out. This will make your systems more vulnerable to diseases because your immunity will reduce. With age, you begin to witness the onset of chronic ailments. Several theories have sought to explain the why and how of aging, and one of those theories that is widely-accepted is the “free-radical theory of aging''.

Free radicals are unstable molecules that are fingered in cell and tissue damage. Your body cannot be free from free radicals because you naturally produce them. For instance, free radicals are generated when your body transforms food into energy.Although they cause cell damage, free radicals are extremely beneficial to our overall health. Your body’s immune system produces free radicals to fight deadly pathogens. They assist in the cell to cell communication, help keep your cells alert to changes in their environment and assist them to respond appropriately to such stimuli. Your heart also depends on free radicals to function efficiently during short-term stress.

Smoking or consuming too much alcohol triggers free radical production in your body. Your body also generates these molecules when it is exposed to pesticides, pollutants, and heavy metals. Other promoters of free radical synthesis include overuse of medications such as antibiotics, consumption of processed food, chronic emotional and physical stress.

Free radicals are unstable, and their excessive production is harmful because they react with nearby cells that will absorb their extra unpaired electrons during the process. The process by which free radicals attack cells to gain stability is known as oxidation. This process leaves the attacked cells in an unstable state.

Consequently, free radicals distort the chemical structure and function of cells and their constituents by taking away electrons from them, hence, the cells, their membranes, lipids, enzymes, mitochondria, and DNA suffer oxidative damage. The consequences of oxidative damage to your cells are unwanted immune response and inflammation followed by aging and chronic ailments.

Studies reveal that there is an association between oxidative damage/inflammation and premature aging. There is also a link between oxidative damage and the development of many degenerative conditions such as arthritis, cardiovascular diseases, Parkinson's, Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, cataracts, and other kinds of autoimmune disorders.

Resveratrol is an antioxidant that supports your body by preventing, controlling, and fixing the oxidative stress set off by free radicals.

Resveratrol prevents mitochondria and tissues from free radical damage by maintaining the levels of intracellular antioxidants such as superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase, and glutathione reductase.

This compound also plays the unique role of activating the SIRT1 enzyme – a Sirtuin enzyme is a family of enzymes that regulate a variety of cellular activities - thus distinguishing resveratrol from other antioxidants. In the next couple of paragraphs, we will be looking at Sirtuins, their role in aging, and overall health.

2. Resveratrol And SIRT1 Activation: What You Need To Know

Resveratrol follows the same mechanism as calorie reduction (CR) in manifesting its anti-aging properties. CR is a practice of reducing your average caloric intake. The principle of calorie restriction is supported by both Ayurveda medicine and Western medicine. Ayurvedic medicine posits that consuming less food is vital for good health and longevity. Similarly, recent studies suggest that caloric restriction - reducing your food intake without depriving your body of essential nutrients-extends lifespan and reduces oxidative damage. [1]

So, what is the mechanism of CR? CR simply reduces oxidative damage by reducing the formation of free radicals. More so, when you take in lesser calories, for example when you are fasting, sirtuins are activated. This is thought to be the mechanism through which CR slows the aging process.

Here is what you need to know about sirtuins:

  • Also known as SIRT2 or silent information regulator 2 proteins.
  • There are 7 proteins, SIRT1 to SIRT7 in the sirtuins of mammals.
  • Sirtuins protect cells from stress and influence the response of cells to stress and lack of nutrients. They also regulate genes that are involved in processes associated with aging. Among such processes are energy production, inflammation, oxidative stress, immune function, the survival of cells under stress, DNA repair, and metabolism.
Substances that activate sirtuins present us with a new alternative of controlling inflammation and a method of treating and managing chronic diseases associated with aging. And that’s where resveratrol anti-aging ability becomes important. It has been shown through scientific studies that resveratrol activates SIRT1, a sirtuin associated with longevity. (Fasting also increases the activity of SIRT1).

A 2018 review found that the anti-aging effects of polyphenols such as resveratrol “could be due to several related mechanisms, among which are the prevention of oxidative stress, SIRT1 activation, and inflammation modulation”. [2]

Resveratrol does not only activate SIRT1, but it also keeps the mitochondria in a healthy state and helps maintain its concentration. Mitochondria are small cellular organelles that convert food into energy. Due to the role it performs, a mitochondrion is also called the powerhouse of the cells. Mitochondria perform other important functions too. Its dysfunction imposes oxidative damage on cells as well as aging and diseases.

Resveratrol increases the number and consequently the activities of the mitochondria. This polyphenol impacts your overall health and aging pattern by promoting the production of new mitochondria and reducing the inflammatory burden on mitochondria when it limits oxidative damage.

Old mitochondria produce energy with a large number of free radicals, while young and healthy mitochondria generate clean energy with minimum waste (free radicals). This is another piece of evidence in support of resveratrol supplements as its anti-aging properties.

By activating sirtuins and limiting oxidative damage, resveratrol can also help manage other conditions related to aging such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer's disease, and heart diseases.

Recent research in this field shows that resveratrol may help:

  • Manage type 2 diabetes as it helps improves insulin sensitivity and lowers blood glucose levels [3]
  • Treat metabolic syndrome and its associated conditions [4]
  • Reduce arterial stiffness in people with type 2 diabetes [5]
  • Slow the progression of dementia in people with type 2 diabetes
  • Reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke as it prevents oxidation of LDL cholesterol, controls inflammation, and improves endothelial function.
Resveratrol increases the availability of Nitric Oxide (NO) in the endothelium. NO is a vasodilator, its increase helps improve the dilation of blood vessels thus improving blood flow to organs and tissues like the brain and heart. Recent findings show that resveratrol dilates blood vessels and improves blood flow to the skeletal muscle in people with insulin resistance. This improves the delivery and utilization of glucose in the body. [6]

Another recent review of available randomized controlled trials found that resveratrol reduces inflammatory markers in the body concluding that, “resveratrol supplementation significantly reduced TNF-a and hs-CRP levels. Significant improvement in inflammatory markers supports resveratrol as an adjunct to pharmacologic management of metabolic diseases.” [7]

Liposomal Curcumin and Resveratrol

3. Resveratrol Revives Ageing Cells

Resveratrol can revive old, non-dividing cells as revealed in a study published in BMC cell biology. [8]

Aging is accompanied by a build-up of old and worn-out cells in your tissues. These non-dividing cells otherwise called senescent cells can trigger low-grade chronic inflammation in the body.

Senescent cells are incapable of gene regulation, for this reason, your body becomes vulnerable to damage and disease as you grow old. Your genes contain the blueprint for making new cells. This is mediated by messenger RNA (mRNA).

Splicing factors and special proteins help genes to do their work and build mRNA. There is a decline in splicing factors with age, this means your cells progressively lose the ability to synthesize mRNA which is essential for cellular division. Reduction in splicing factors is associated with aging and diseases.

The study concluded that “This is the first demonstration that moderation of splicing factor levels is associated with reversal of cellular senescence in human primary fibroblasts. Small molecule modulators of such targets may therefore represent promising novel anti-degenerative therapies.”

Here’s a brief explanation:

One of the ways your cells lose their ability to divide further is through telomere shortening. Telomeres are DNA-protein structures at the end of each DNA strand. Their principal role is to preserve genetic information during cellular division. When a cell divides, it is the telomeres that are edited and not the main DNA. If not for telomeres, the main DNA would lose its fragment, corrupting the genetic blueprint. The loss of telomeres doesn't matter as these protective tips have the same stretch of DNA sequence.

For every cell division, the telomeres shorten until it becomes too short to help. At this point, the cell is unable to divide, grow, rejuvenate nor perform basic functions. In this way, gradual loss of telomerase makes the cell senescent.

The team discovered that switching on the splicing factors, which plummets with age, resets the senescent cells such that they start to function like younger cells thereby restoring their ability to divide further. Their telomeres -which get edited as we age - become longer, like in new cells.

The mechanisms through which resveratrol rejuvenates old cells, and non-dividing cells, are not clear. But the purported mechanisms of action are:

  • Increase the levels of splicing factors in senescent cells
  • Increase the length of telomeres, that allows them to replicate longer.
The take-away:

  • Reduces oxidative damage to cells and their mitochondria, membranes, and DNA
  • Triggers the production of new mitochondria, improving energy levels and reducing oxidative stress on cells
  • Activates SIRT1 (Sirtuin 1), proteins that regulate various genes involved in inflammation, oxidative damage, and metabolism.
  • Rejuvenates aging cells and restore their ability to divide.
These pathways make resveratrol a candidate to reduce the effects of premature aging, reduce inflammation, improve cellular energy, and maintain metabolic balance in the body thereby restoring good health with reduced burden of disease and dysfunction.

Although resveratrol is present in red wine, you need to take in a large volume of wine to enjoy the health benefits of resveratrol but as we all know, excess wine or alcohol may impair your health in various ways. A glass of wine is likely to enhance your heart health, however, experts warn of too much consumption. Taking a resveratrol supplement is a great alternate way of reaping the benefits of this antioxidant.

  1. Redman et al. Metabolic Slowing and Reduced Oxidative Damage with Sustained Caloric Restriction Support the Rate of Living and Oxidative Damage Theories of Aging. Cell Metabolism. 2018
  2. Sarubbo et al. Effects of Resveratrol and other Polyphenols on Sirt1: Relevance to Brain Function During Aging. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2018
  3. Zhu et al. Effects of resveratrol on glucose control and insulin sensitivity in subjects with type 2 diabetes: systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2017
  4. Chaplin et al. Resveratrol, Metabolic Syndrome, and Gut Microbiota. Nutrients. 2018
  5. Can the antioxidant resveratrol reduce artery stiffness in diabetics? American Heart Association. 2017.
  6. Wong et al. Resveratrol Counteracts Insulin Resistance-Potential Role of the Circulation. Nutrients. 2018
  7. Koushki et al. Effect of Resveratrol Supplementation on Inflammatory Markers: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Clin Ther. 2018
  8. E Latorre et al. Small molecule modulation of splicing factor expression is associated with rescue from cellular senescence. BMC Cell Biology. 2017