The compound behind all those stories about red wine being good for you

If you’re a teetotaller, your pals have probably been trying to persuade you to drink red wine by claiming its numerous health benefits. The benefits have been attributed to a substance present in red wine known as resveratrol. The claims of this compound have become the issue of heated debate, with some arguing that it may reduce the risk of cancer and boost cardiovascular health; others say that there’s no evidence.

Resveratrol is a chemical that plants produce when they are stressed or injured, as well as fungal disease. Its primary purpose is to guarantee the longevity of the plant in harsh environments. It has also been utilized in oriental medicine to treat ailments related to the liver and blood vessels. However, some studies have not been able to demonstrate a similar “elixir” function. Due to the absence of adequate clinical evidence from humans along with a lack of knowledge of how resveratrol may be effective, however, the jury is still in the dark as to whether this substance can actually provide health benefits.

In the present, Sajish Matthew and Paul Schimmel at the Scripps Research Institute have taken the first step to address this. In the study released in Nature, they present the mechanisms by which it has anti-cancer, cardio-protective, and anti-diabetic properties. Their findings also open opportunities for its use for therapeutic purposes.

The perfect companion

Cells, the basic body’s building blocks, work properly because too many proteins within them perform specific tasks, such as enabling cells to travel from one location to another. They interact with or bind with partner proteins to perform a variety of functions, and their 3D structure determines the way they collaborate; therefore, proteins that have similar systems are likely to bind with each other and share similar functions.

Matthew and Schimmel were interested in resveratrol after realizing that the compound responsible for the stress response they were looking at, tyrosyl-tRNA synthetase, has a comparable 3D structure to that of resveratrol. Attracted by this resemblance, they discovered that resveratrol acted in conjunction with the synthetase of tRNA, and it was found that this interaction was essential to the extent that resveratrol showed the stress response that will provide red wine with some of its health advantages. But, if this particular interaction was stopped from occurring, the red wine compounds could lose their benefits.

Responding to stress

Once they identified the main interaction between resveratrol and its partner, the researchers sought to understand how this interaction affected the levels of several other molecules that control how cells cope with various stresses. Three of these are the p53 gene, AMPK and SIRT6.

Based on a study conducted in mice, they found that resveratrol may increase levels of P53, AMPK, and SIRT6 in cells. This is crucial since p53 is thought to be the most potent inhibitor of tumor growth, and higher levels may explain why wine consumption can decrease the incidence of tumors. Additionally, the increased levels of SIRT6 could lower sugar levels in patients with diabetes. Grapes are another significant source of resveratrol, which could be the reason why grapes are a good choice for people with diabetes. The increased levels of AMPK trigger cells to react to stress better by encouraging the survival of cells.

The Nature study provides a key mechanism that is responsible for delivering the numerous health benefits that are attributed to the compound found in red wine. The most important component of resveratrol, the tyrosyl tRNA synthetase, can also be employed alongside it to treat ailments. However, before we are too optimistic, a key step is to confirm the results of these studies using clinical trials with humans.

Before you teeter into the new glass of wine, be aware that resveratrol can be found in high quantities in lily, eucalyptus peas, nuts, mulberries, and, obviously, grapes. Any health benefits that exist can be derived from other sources and are likely to be available to teetotallers who aren’t enjoying the delicious tasting of a glass of red wine.


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