Resveratrol’s Health Benefits Finally Explained
Remember resveratrol? You know, the elixir substance, prominent in red wine and grapes, that was once touted for its alleged life-extending benefits? You don’t hear as much about resveratrol these days, and part of the reason is that some of the initial claims for near-miraculous benefits did not seem to pan out. Part of the problem was that no one was certain exactly how resveratrol worked its supposed magic.
But new research has finally uncovered precisely how resveratrol works. And the mechanism suggests that resveratrol really does provide some significant potential health benefits. In short, resveratrol activates an ancient survival mechanism in the body, by stimulating a stress-like response in individual cells.
“This stress response represents a layer of biology that has been largely overlooked,” said senior investigator Paul Schimmel, “and resveratrol turns out to activate it at much lower concentrations than those used in prior studies,” The new research was published in the online edition of the influential journal, Nature. ”With these findings we have a new, fundamental mechanism for the known beneficial effects of resveratrol," said lead author Mathew Sajish.
Interestingly, resveratrol is a chemical that a few plants, such as grape, cacao and peanuts, produce in response to threats from ultraviolet radiation or disease. Studies have previously shown that resveratrol added to the diet can enable obese rats to avoid diabetes, live longer than normal, and run significantly farther.
The present research demonstrated the specific mechanisms within cells that resveratrol uses to promote beneficial effects. In essence, it triggers the activation of a protein that plays an important role in repairing DNA; this function is believed to play an important role in lifespan. The activation of an initial protein leads, in turn, to the activation of a number of other beneficial proteins, including one known to suppress the development of cancer, and others involved in longevity.
"We believe that [resveratrol’s target in the body] has evolved to act as a top-level switch or activator of a fundamental cell-protecting mechanism that works in virtually all forms of life," said Sajish.
Mathew Sajish, Paul Schimmel. A human tRNA synthetase is a potent PARP1-activating effector target for resveratrol. Nature, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nature14028