Cardiovascular protective role of resveratrol: dietary sources and supplementation

Cardiovascular protective role of resveratrol: dietary sources and supplementation by Anamaria Cucliciu

Resveratrol is a naturally occurring polyphenol with phytoestrogenic properties. Resveratrol is widely present in plants which reproduce from seeds[1] and is found in high concentrations in grape skin. Other rich sources include red wine, peanuts, pistachios, dark chocolate, bilberries, mulberries, blueberries and cranberries.[2]

Resveratrol is thought to have various protective functions in humans, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective, antiviral, antiproliferative and anti-carcinogenic [1]. The ‘French paradox’ indicates that despite the high fat diet and smoking habits of the French population, the country has very low mortality and morbidity rates from coronary heart diseases. This epidemiological phenomenon has been attributed to their moderate consumption of red wine. Subsequently, it was questioned weather this cardioprotective action is due to resveratrol alone or other polyphenols and phytochemical substances also play an important role.

The growing base of evidence for the health-protective effects of resveratrol gave rise to the interest in resveratrol supplementation. But is this nutraceutical actually efficient?

Following oral administration, resveratrol is rapidly and efficiently absorbed. However, it has a poor bioavailability because of the rapid and extensive hepatic first pass-metabolism.[3]

It has been established that resveratrol’s beneficial effects on health are produced in a dose-dependent manner.[2] A large number of cell culture and animal studies[1],[2] have showed that mechanisms behind resveratrol’s cardioprotective role include:

  • defence against ischemic-reperfusion injury
  • vasorelaxation
  • protection and maintenance of intact endotheliumreduction of vascular inflammation
  • suppression of low density lipoprotein oxidation
  • antiatherosclerotic properties
  • inhibition of platelet aggregation
  • regulation of energy metabolism
  • estrogenic  activity

However, the molecular mechanisms behind these properties are complex and not well defined. Most human studies have been done on a small scale and have yielded mixed results, their findings not always fitting with in vitro and experimental models data.[1],[2],[3]

Although resveratrol is almost certain to have a protective effect on human health, including the cardiovascular system, further large scale clinical studies are needed to evaluate resveratrol’s supplementation efficacy, pharmacokinetics, adequate doses, tolerability and potential interaction with other drugs.[2] Consuming resveratrol rich foods is surely beneficial to health, while it is yet to be established whether supplementation can be recommended for cardiovascular disease prevention and perhaps even treatment.

Anamaria is a Nutrition and Dietetics student at King’s College London, highly interested in nutrition research and cardiovascular health, yet passionate about badminton and dance, infatuated with cats and peanut butter.



1. Hao, HD and He, LR (2004) Review. Mechanisms of Cardiovascular Protection by Resveratrol. Journal of Medicinal Food 7 (3) 2004, 290-298. doi:10.1089/jmf.2004.7.290

2. Bukarica, LG, Protić, D, Kanjuh, V, Heinle, H, Novakovi, R, Šćepanovi, R (2013) Cardiovascular effects of resveratrol. Vojnosanit Pregl ; 70(12): 1145–1150. DOI: 10.2298/VSP120613012G

3. Sahebkar, A (2013) Effects of resveratrol supplementation on plasma lipids: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutrition Reviews , 71(12):822–835. DOI: 10.1111/nure.12081

Posted in Nutrition, Supplements

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Dr Scott Harding

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