Resveratrol: The next muscle supplement?

The term “resveratrol” has become one of those health buzzwords like “antioxidants,” “superfood” or “detox.”

Resveratrol is an antioxidant (yes, I know, another buzzword) and that’s a big part of the reason it’s synonymous with the “buzz” surrounding anti-aging nutrients.

Like other antioxidants to varying degrees, resveratrol protects your cells from the damage that comes with aging. It’s found in certain plants where is serves to protect and help plants cope with fungal infections, ultraviolet radiation, stress and injury.

You probably already know that you can get resveratrol from red wine (because red wine has gotten the most resveratrol-related press), but it’s also found in peanuts, pistachios, grapes, white wine, blueberries, cranberries, mulberries, lingonberries, cocoa and dark chocolate

And, as with most health buzzwords, the reason for all the “buzz” about resveratrol can be traced to actual measurable health benefits. Research has confirmed it can help prevent skin cancer, heart disease and heart failure, protect the nerves and brain, lower blood sugar, improve insulin sensitivity and extend lifespan.

Now, most of these scientific studies have been performed on mice or other rodents, but it’s proof there’s a lot of potential in in this powerful little plant compound. Even more potential is coming to light everyday — and the latest findings may make red wine a popular after-workout drink…

Most recently, researchers at Georgetown University found that resveratrol has some major restorative powers when it comes to your muscles. It can even counteract the effects of an unhealthy diet — which is incredibly hard on your muscles.

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Researchers studied the effect of resveratrol on rhesus monkeys by feeding one group of monkeys a high fat, high sugar diet and feeding a control group of monkeys a healthy diet.

Not surprisingly, the monkeys fed the sugar-saturated diet experienced ill effects in their muscles. It made their muscles more vulnerable to fatigue, reducing the ability to stay active and mobile.

But when resveratrol was added to the diet of the monkeys with poor eating habits, their muscles once again became energized and resistant to fatigue.

How much resveratrol do you need?

Even though the study was conducted on rhesus monkeys, researchers said resveratrol could have big benefits for human muscles too. More specifically, researchers say that resveratrol could help “sustain longer periods of activity and could contribute to improved physical activity, mobility, or stability, especially in elderly individuals.”

So how many berries, nuts, squares of dark chocolate or glasses of wine does it take to experience these types of benefits?

The answer is a lot. Researchers usually administer pretty high doses in their studies — higher than you’d typically get in your daily glass of wine with dinner. So you might want to take resveratrol in supplement form rather than just relying on your food — at least if you want to experience the benefits “as advertised” by researchers.

But the tricky thing is, there really are no established resveratrol dosage guidelines for humans at this point. It’s all still a bit experimental. And some say taking too much resveratrol could even be harmful to your health, so proceed with a bit of caution.

Right now resveratrol supplements come in dosages up to 500 mg and they can cost a pretty penny. If you buy the cheapest bottle of resveratrol, you’re probably getting a less beneficial type known as cis-resveratrol. So you should always go with the more expensive trans-resveratrol if you want to experience the full bevy of benefits.

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Sources:
  1. P.K. Hyatt, L. Nguyen, A.E. Hall, A.M. Huber, J.C. Kocan, J.A. Mattison, R. de Cabo, J.R. LaRocque, R.J. Talmadge. “Muscle-Specific Myosin Heavy Chain Shifts in Response to a Long-Term High Fat/High Sugar Diet and Resveratrol Treatment in Nonhuman Primates.” Frontiers in Physiology, 2016; 7.
  2. “Diet rich in resveratrol offers no health boost.” Harvard Medical School. http://www.health.harvard.edu. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
  3. “Resveratrol.” Linus Pauling Institute. Oregon State University. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu. Retrieved May 15, 2016.

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Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.