The story goes that the French have a diet that is high in saturated fat, where they eat high amounts of cheese and drink lots of wine and rather than having the massive wave of heart attacks we might expect of such a diet they have fewer heart attacks than Americans and others who eat supposedly healthier diets.
That is the "French Paradox"!
So how do the French do it? And more important – can we do it too?
And we wonder, is there some ingredient in their cheese or in the wine that has a special life extending power?
What is the French secret?
And where can we get some?
It Might Be the Resveratrol
"Res – very – trol" was first found in 1939 and languished in research laboratories for decades as it was painstakingly investigated.
We now know that it is widely found in plants such as blueberries, strawberries, grapes and peanuts where it functions to boost the health of those plants when they are attacked by mould and fungus.
As knowledge of resveratrol spread it dawned on the Wine industry in 1992 that if there is a healthy ingredient in grapes then it may well be in Wine too so the marketing departments came up with the angle that maybe we can market wine as being "healthy" rather than just a toxic burden for the liver to deal with!
Consequently you will find lots of claims in resveratrol literature about how good wine is for your health!
When a plant gets damaged by high winds, fungus or insects it can't run away or go to a health professional – it has to heal itself and resveratrol is one of the medicines that plants make for their own healing.
Summary: Plants make resveratrol to heal themselves.
Maybe Resveratrol Can Heal Us Too
All those years in the research laboratories mean that there is a lot to read about resveratrol.
A lot of the research is at the stage of so called "animal models" where the health effects of taking resveratrol are tested with fruit flies, mice and any other animals that the researchers can access.
But in spite of my own reservations about animal experimentation here are a few reasons I think we should take this research seriously.
First resveratrol is in what is widely taken as the healthiest diet of the world – the Mediterranean Diet. Since this is mainly a fruit and vegetable diet with only small amounts of milk, cheese, fish and meat the diet contains significant amounts of resveratrol already.
So maybe the question we are asking here is "Is resveratrol a significant part of the Mediterranean Diet?
If in doubt we can just make fruit and vegetables a bigger part of your daily meals.
Second – lots of the research focuses on molecular and genetic processes common to many species and will be applicable to us and many other species too.
Third if you are not quite convinced that resveratrol is worth buying as a food supplement, hopefully a healthy diet – one with daily fresh fruit and vegetables will contain what is probably an adequate amount of resveratrol already and we certainly don't need to take supplements of every healthy plant chemical we come across.
Most people do not want to take dozens of tablets a day and I'm one of them!
What Does Resveratrol Research Show?
Let's start by looking at how much resveratrol there is in some foods and in Wine.
Food Serving Total resveratrol (mg)
Peanut butter 1 c (258 g) 0.04 – 0.13
Red grapes 1 c (160 g) 0.24 – 1.25
Cocoa powder 1 c (200 g) 0.28 – 0.46
Peanuts (raw) 1 c (146 g) 0.01 – 0.26
Peanuts (boiled) 1 c (180 g) 0.32 – 1.28
Here we can see the role of resveratrol in protecting peanuts, grapes and cocoa beans. The high levels of resveratrol are crucial to the plant's survival and may be equally vital in our survival too.
We won't truly know that until we have thousands of people taking resveratrol tablets over 10 or 20 years.
Don't hold your breath for that study to be done – it is the drug companies who shell out the millions of dollars to finance such a big study and they would lose a great deal of money if the trial proved to be successful.
People would not by buying statins for their circulation if resveratrol or some other easily affordable natural nutrient did a better job would they?
So that leaves us with smaller studies to look at and most of them on mice and other animals.
And just looking at the data for grapes…
Wine and grape juice
Beverage Total resveratrol Total resveratrol
(mg/litre) (mg/150 ml)
Red wine (global) 1.98 – 7.13 0.30 – 1.07
Red wine (Spanish) 1.92 – 12.59 0.29 – 1.89
Red grape juice (Spanish) 1.14 – 8.69 0.17 – 1.30
Rose wine (Spanish) 0.43 – 3.52 0.06 – 0.53
Pinot noir 0.40 – 2.0 0.06 – 0.30
White wine (Spanish) 0.05 – 1.80 0.01 – 0.27
It is the column on the right that shows us how much resveratrol we get in 150 ml.
Wanting to make that more real I checked how many ml in a cup. Of course the internet always gives you more answers than you want.
1 Cup American is 240 ml
1 Cup EU is 250 ml
1 Cup British 284 ml
1 Cup Japanese 200 ml
And from this we learn that if you want a cup of tea then ask a Brit because we'll serve you with a larger more generous cup!
Going back to the Table we can take column 3 as the amount of resveratrol we may get in a glass of wine or red grape juice.
In these foods and drinks we would get about 1/2 a milligram per portion or drink.
Now this is a tiny table and we may find other foods and drinks with more resveratrol but we can see that people who choose to take a resveratrol tablet that has 20 mg from Life Extension capsule are getting a lot more resveratrol .
Time to take a look at the science now…
Resveratrol In The Laboratory
One of the clearest ways to extend your life is to use what scientists so cutely call "calorie restriction".
You might better call this "Starvation Lite" because it involves a serious reduction of calories and few people have ever chosen to follow this route. The results in some primates are impressive with large reductions of heart disease and from other serious diseases.
The amount of life extension seemed to vary a lot.
Groups of mice who were fed with resveratrol showed the same kind of gene expression as mice who were subjected to calorie reduction.
Resveratrol Boosts Endothelial Health
One of the most important and fundamental parts of the body is the inner surface of our arteries. This surface is in contact with our blood circulation and can be damaged by LDL cholesterol, free radicles and toxins in the blood.
It is damage to this endothelium that can lead on to trigger Stroke and Cardiac disease.
Cancer is both a frightening disease and an unlikely one. The body has built in defence to cancer and it works by triggering a "Suicide" process in the cancer cell. Resveratrol boosts genes in the cancer cell that lead to its death.
Resveratrol is also an anti-inflammatory nutrient and may therefore be used to help treat other inflammatory diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and Diabetes.
All major diseases have inflammation as central so natural anti- inflammatories such as resveratrol can be used along with more familiar anti-inflammatories such as vitamin C and E.
Last Words On Resveratrol
We started in France wondering why their take on the Mediterranean diet seemed to work so well and asking ourselves if they had a secret in their cheese or Wine. Could it be the somewhat mysterious plant protector resveratrol in their diet that helped them so much.
Animal research looks promising and the small number of human trials backs this up.
To get these benefits we can eat lots of red grapes or take a resveratrol supplement. Wine is a rather variable source of resveratrol depending as it does on climate and how well the farmer treats their vines.
Supplements can be unreliable too if bought from anyone other than premium supplier who does not have the science backing needed.
The only organisation I know of who do original research and supply world class supplants is the Life Extension Organisation.
To access their resveratrol capsules follow the link.
If you have any questions about resveratrol please leave them in the comments below and if you found this information useful do please let your friends know. Thank you.