Resveratrol (3,4',5-trihydroxystilbene) belongs to a class of polyphenolic compounds called stilbenes (1). Some types of plants produce resveratrol and other stilbenes in response to stress, injury, fungal infection, and ultraviolet (UV) radiation (2). Resveratrol is a fat-soluble compound that occurs in a trans and a cis configuration (see figure 1). Both cis- and trans-resveratrol also occur as glucosides (bound to a glucose molecule). Resveratrol-3-O-beta-glucoside is also called piceid (3). Scientists became interested in exploring potential health benefits of resveratrol in 1992 when its presence was first reported in red wine (4), leading to speculation that resveratrol might help explain the “French Paradox” (see Cardiovascular Disease below). More recently, reports on the potential for resveratrol to inhibit the development of cancer (5) and extend lifespan (6) in cell culture and animal models have continued to generate scientific interest.
* Resveratrol is a polyphenolic compound found in grapes, red wine, purple grape juice, peanuts and some berries.
* When taken orally, resveratrol appears to be well-absorbed by humans, but its bioavailability is relatively low because it is rapidly metabolized and eliminated.
* Scientists became interested in exploring potential health benefits of resveratrol when its presence was reported in red wine, leading to speculation that resveratrol might help explain the “French Paradox.”
* Moderate alcohol consumption has been consistently associated with 20-30% reductions in coronary heart disease risk, but it is not yet clear whether red wine polyphenols, such as resveratrol, confer any additional risk reduction.
* Although resveratrol can inhibit the growth of cancer cells in culture and some animal models, it is not known whether high intakes of resveratrol can prevent cancer in humans.
* Resveratrol administration increased the lifespans of yeast, worms, and fruit flies, but it is not known whether resveratrol will have similar effects in higher animals or humans.
* At present, relatively little is known about the effects of resveratrol in humans.
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