The Antioxidants Section
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If you watch the news or read the paper, chances are you’ve seen headlines touting the health benefits of red wine, most notably that it lowers your risk of cancer and heart disease. Scientists discovered the link between red wine consumption and better health while studying what they call the French paradox: Why do the French have less heart disease and cancer, when the typical French diet and lifestyle often includes high-fat foods as well as cigarettes? Their studies showed that, surprisingly, it was the French habit of drinking a glass or two of red wine each day that protected them from developing these chronic diseases.
Yet how can drinking alcohol actually improve anyone’s health when it is a well-established fact that alcohol inhibits the body’s absorption of all vitamins, and can, when consumed regularly, lead to liver damage, dementia, and a host of other nasty disorders? Researchers found the answer to this question when they discovered resveratrol, an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory substance found in red wine. Further studies of resveratrol revealed that it helps prevent blood clots by keeping blood vessels open and pliable.
Resveratrol helps lower cholesterol, and is as much as 10 to 20 times more potent than vitamin E in protecting against LDL oxidation, a process that has been linked to the development of cardiovascular disease. It is also thought to discourage tumor growth by blocking the action of Cox-2, an enzyme that researchers believe contributes to the development of colon cancer. Additional studies suggest that resveratrol may be useful in both preventing and treating cancer.
Resveratrol is found in the stems, leaves, and skins of grapes. Although a glass or two of red wine each day may lower the risk of heart disease, one recent study shows that alcohol-free red wine works just as well. Resveratrol is also present in purple grape juice, red or purple grapes, and peanuts. However, because of the fermenting process, resveratrol levels are higher in red wine than other natural sources—red wine has about three times as much resveratrol as grape juice.
Resveratrol supplements are also now available, and are usually combined with grape extracts or other antioxidants. Since researchers are just beginning to explore the benefits of resveratrol, there is no Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for this substance; to date, no side effects, toxic symptoms, or drug interactions have been reported in connection with resveratrol consumption.
Researchers believe that 500 milligrams daily is the minimum amount of resveratrol needed to protect against cancer. A glass of red wine contains approximately 640 micrograms of resveratrol, and a handful of peanuts supplies nearly 75 micrograms.
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