Resveratrol use became more common in 2006, after news agencies began reporting its benefits. Until that time, most people had not heard of it.

It’s actually an antioxidant and antibacterial agent present in red wine, red grapes, Japanese knotweed root and several other plants. Some researchers believe it may explain the French paradox, a lower incidence of heart disease, despite a higher intake of diet fat among people who live in Southern France. That belief is debatable.

Scientists have shown that consuming red wine, even one that contains the highest content of resveratrol, is not the best way to get the nutrient into your bloodstream. Stomach acid breaks it down and makes it unavailable for use by the cells of the body. The level in the bloodstream goes up when foods are consumed along with the wines, but not by much.

Regardless of whether or not it is responsible for the French paradox, it is definitely a highly active antioxidant that is believed to have a unique activity within the cells of the body. If it were not active, pharmaceutical companies would not be planning to release drugs that contain it.

In supplement form, resveratrol use can be very beneficial, as long as the manufacturer includes an enteric coating to protect the nutrient from stomach acid. Once the antioxidant reaches the upper intestine, it can pass through the intestinal wall and enter the bloodstream. From there, it goes to the cells of the body, scavenging free radicals, seeking out pre-cancerous cells and generally making you healthy.

It works best when combined with other nutrients that enhance its activity. These include grape seed and bilberry extracts. Each of these extracts contains similar antioxidants, but the activity within the cell is slightly different. So they all complement each other.

Resveratrol use has been recommended for people who are at risk of developing type II diabetes and for those who have already diagnosed with it. One of the drugs that the pharmaceutical companies are researching is designed for this purpose.

I have several concerns about drugs that contain natural ingredients. First of all, manufacturers are more likely to try to create a synthetic version, which has already been done, and use that. Synthetics are never as effective as the natural compounds. Second, when drug makers developed an effective anti-depressant drug, they had some of the natural anti-depressants taken off the market.

I do not believe resveratrol should only be available by prescription. Of course, because of the Internet, we should still be able to get the supplements from other countries, even if the FDA bans them in the United States.

Lastly, the pharmaceutical companies will charge more for their versions, despite the fact that they are cheap synthetics. Of course, you should do what your doctor tells you to do. But if you are unhappy with his or her advice, you can always seek a second opinion. You might want to consult a doctor of naturopathic medicine if you are considering resveratrol use for specific health problems.

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