Resveratrol is a polyphenolic compound found in many botanical products. Red wine is a natural source of resveratrol as it is rich in grape skin and seeds. However, resveratrol is usually consumed as a dietary supplement for its purported antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also marketed as an anti-aging supplement based on the findings that it prolongs the life span of yeast cells (1) (2). This effect has not yet been demonstrated in humans.
Resveratrol is thought to have cardioprotective effects. Earlier studies found that it reduces the oxidation of low density lipoproteins (LDL) and inhibits aggregation of platelets and may offer protection against atherogenesis (3) (4). Consumption of wine or a resveratrol-rich grape supplement is associated with reduction in risk of cardiovascular disease (5) (6) and may help promote health of the circulatory system (7) (8) (9).
Resveratrol can increase insulin sensitivity in diabetic patients (10) (11). However, clinical studies on the effect of resveratrol in controlling metabolic syndromes in obese subjects yielded mix results (12) (13). In vitro and animal studies show that resveratrol inhibits proliferation of cancer cells via different mechanisms (14) (15) (16) (17) (18) (19). It may also protect against chemotherapy-induced cardiotoxicity (19) (20). Further clinical studies are needed to confirm these effects in humans.
External application of a resveratrol containing gel reduced the symptoms of acne (21).
While resveratrol is generally safe, high doses can cause gastrointestinal side effects, such as diarrhea. Resveratrol inhibits CYP450 enzymes (22) (23) and may increase the risk of adverse effects of certain drugs.