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The Science Behind Resveratrol

In our last article, Resveratrol - The Big Picture, we provided a quick overview on what Resveratrol is, where it comes from and why you might be interested in it. In this article we dig a little deeper into the science behind the resveratrol molecule and some theories on why we age. We will need to define a couple of terms that may lead to your eyelids growing heavy, but the actual ways resveratrol works its magic is very interesting.

What is Resveratrol - The More Scientific Answer

In our last article we gave the simple definition of what Resveratrol is. Let's dig a little deeper into what really makes up the Resveratrol compound...

Trans-Resveratrol and It's Evil Brother Cis-Resveratrol

The chemical structure of Resveratrol is 3,5,4'-trihydroxystilbene. Here are the pretty pictures of Resveratrol -

Chemical Structure of Resveratrol

3D Image of Trans-Resveratrol from Wikipedia Article

In truth that image is not just Resveratrol, it is Trans-Resveratrol, one of two geometric isomers of Resveratrol. The other geometric isomer of Resveratrol... CIS-Resveratrol.

Trans-Resveratrol, Geometric Isomers - Is this Supposed to Make Any Sense to Me???

Not really. The detailed science here can get a little hairy, so let's just simplify to what we need to know.

Sometimes things can be made with the same components, but not be exactly the same. Take a look at these two equations -

1 +3 = 4
3+ 1 = 4

Both equations have the same components (the number 1 and the number 3), both add up to the same thing, but they are not identical. The structure of the equation is a little different. This is basically what Geometric Isomers are - things that have the same components, but are structured in a different way.

When it comes to Resveratrol, here is a more accurate picture of the two types of Resveratrol that exist -

Cis-Resveratrol and Trans-Resveratrol

Both Trans-Resveratrol and CIS-Resveratrol have the same molecules, they just have different bonds, different structures.

Is there really any difference between Trans-Resveratrol and CIS-Resveratrol?

Yes! Did you think we would bore you with all this science if there wasn't a real and significant difference between the two forms of resveratrol?

Trans-Resveratrol is stable and easily absorbed by the human body.
CIS-Resveratrol is NOT stable and NOT easily absorbed.

The exact science behind this goes beyond the scope of this article, but it is very important to understand that if you are looking to receive health benefits from Resveratrol you want to make sure you are taking Trans-Resveratrol. Study after study has shown that Trans-Resveratrol is the isomer you want if you are looking for health benefits from Resveratrol.

We discuss this more in a later article, but a product that just list Resveratrol on its ingredients is delivering 50% Trans-Resveratrol and 50% CIS-Resveratrol. It is much better to get a product that just delivers Trans-Resveratrol.

My head is spinning - What Should I Take Away From All This?

The important lesson here is that as you read, watch and listen to media reports and clinical studies touting the incredible health benefits of Resveratrol, what they are really talking about is Trans-Resveratrol. Don't worry about isomers and chemistry - there will not be a test at the end of this article, just understand as you shop and compare resveratrol products, you always want to be looking for Trans-Resveratrol.

Throughout this site (and on many other sites) we will talk about health benefits of Resveratrol. While we are using the generic term Resveratrol for simplicity, we are really talking about Trans-Resveratrol.

How Does Trans-Resveratrol Help My Body?

While there is still debate on some of the ways that Trans-Resveratrol effects functions in our body, its role as a powerful antioxidant is clear. Pure Trans-Resveratrol has an ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbence Capacity) level of 30,000 per gram.


Note: Want to learn more about ORAC, Antioxidants and Free Radicals? Click here to read our Acai article on Antioxidants and ORAC. You can then return here and continue reading about Resveratrol.

The USDA recommends we consume foods with a combined ORAC of 3,000 - 5,000 per day, so it is incredible that just 200mg of Trans-Resveratrol will provide 6,000 ORAC!

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has initiated studies to look at the link between antioxidant rich food and aging. Here are some direct quotes from the USDA website -

"Studies at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston suggest that consuming fruits and vegetables with a high-ORAC value may help slow the aging process in both body and brain."

Ronald L. Prior, the researcher for the USDA study went on to suggest that "the ORAC measure may help define the dietary conditions needed to prevent tissue damage."

"Science has long held that damage by oxygen free radicals is behind many of the maladies that come with aging, including cardiovascular disease and cancer. There's firm evidence that a high intake of fruits and vegetables reduces risk of cancer and that a low intake raises risk. And recent evidence suggests that diminished brain function associated with aging and disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases may be due to increased vulnerability to free radicals, says Joseph, a neuroscientist. "

- "Can Foods Forestall Aging?", published in the February 1999 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

It is clear that the potential health benefits of eating high ORAC value foods should not be underestimated.

Resveratrol's Role Beyond Antioxidants

If Resveratrol was just an excellent antioxidant it would be interesting, but not astounding. What really makes Resveratrol so fascinating is its potential role in mimicking calorie restriction and triggering the longevity gene - SIRT1 (Sirtuin 1). The anti-aging potential of Resveratrol is discussed in our next article -

The Health Benefits of Resveratrol


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