The Neuroprotective Power of Resveratrol

by | Oct 26, 2023

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In this episode of The Modern Vital Podcast, Dr. Ben Reebs explores the vast world of antioxidants, with a keen focus on one in particular: Resveratrol. Widely recognized for its presence in red wine, Dr. Reebs delves deeper into its chemical structure, revealing that this powerful antioxidant extends beyond our favorite evening beverage. Found in grape skin, seeds, various berries, and even peanuts, resveratrol stands out as a potent polyphenol (of which there are over 8,000 varieties). But its true marvel lies in its neuroprotective properties.

Studies over the past decade indicate that resveratrol can combat age-related neurological disorders such as macular degeneration, cognitive deficits, and even Alzheimer’s disease. Its role as a free radical scavenger, lowering oxidative stress and inflammation, brings hope in the field of neurology. Additionally, the podcast discusses how resveratrol promotes neuronal development and affects various cellular activities, from energy homeostasis to apoptosis and longevity. Dr. Reebs, advocating for its potential, also touches upon its multifaceted benefits, including antifungal, cardio protective, anti-carcinogenic, and antiviral properties.

Closing out the episode, Dr. Reebs emphasizes the significant value resveratrol brings to the toolbox of naturopathic and functional medicine practitioners. As he delves into its applications in treating complex chronic illnesses, listeners gain a profound appreciation for this antioxidant powerhouse. If you’re curious about optimizing brain health, reversing aging, or even just understanding the untapped potential of common supplements, this episode is a must-listen. 

If you’re looking to dive deeper into understanding the intricacies of chronic disease and its impact on your overall well-being, consider checking out Dr. Reebs’ book, “The Serpent & The Butterfly: The Seven Laws of Healing.” In this book, he discusses the laws of healing essential to resolving chronic disease and much more to help you on your journey to optimal wellness. Click here to purchase your copy:

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Complete Transcript of Episode 13853227

Dr. Ben Reebs: We’re gonna talk a little bit about the neuroprotective action of one of my favorite supplements, resveratrol. Now, resveratrol is a type of antioxidant. We’ve talked about antioxidants a lot on this show. It has a chemical structure called a still bean. We know resveratrol most famously for being present in red wine. But did you know that there’s only about a milligram or so of resveratrol in a typical five ounce glass of red wine.

So you’d have to drink about 50 glasses of red wine in order to get 50 mg of resveratrol. Hence, it would be a lot better just to get it in supplement form. Just FYI, resveratrol is abundant in the grape skin as well as the grape seeds and some berries like blueberries, raspberries, and mulberries. And it’s even found in peanuts. A legume. Of course.

Anyway, resveratrol is also a polyphenol, a type of antioxidant that we have discussed on the show quite a few times. Polyphenols are micro nutrient compounds found in plants, fruits, vegetables, teas, even spices. There are over 8000 different types of polyphenols. We think of like flavonoids, such as quercetin found in onions, berries, broccoli, even citrus catechins, which we think of in green tea.

The most famous being EGCG or epigallocatechin-3-gallate. Now studies have found over the past decade or so that resveratrol appears to reduce age related neurological disorders. Think of macular degeneration, stroke, cognitive deficits, apparently resveratrol also has neuroprotective action with regard to toxicity. It can help as a free radical scavenger.

You know, we’ve talked about those free radicals that can ping around and damage proteins in the cells. Also because of this protective capacity, oxidative stress is lowered, the inflammation that promotes the oxidative stress is also dampened. And resveratrol has also been shown in mostly preclinical studies to help clear beta amyloid.

Which we know is a key feature of Alzheimer’s disease. Now, much of these studies, as I mentioned, are preclinical findings, but they could help to improve patient outcomes as we apply what we learn over time. And as more studies come out in the coming decade or so. As naturopathic doctors, I think we should certainly consider adding resveratrol as a tool to our growing toolbox or tool belt.

For example, I use resveratrol often for its antifungal properties to treat mold illness. Now, resveratrol has also been shown to have cardio protective capacity. It’s anti carcinogenic and it’s even been shown to be anti viral. And as I just mentioned, it has some antifungal properties as well. Now, let’s talk a little bit about Alzheimer’s disease or ad now, more than 6 million Americans at the moment have AD or Alzheimer’s in the US.

It’s the most common cause of dementia and cognitive impairment. And there’s currently no treatment. Basically, Amyloid beta will build up in the brain in particularly susceptible areas such as the hippocampus. And our tau proteins will get phosphorylated contributing to what are called these neurofibrillary tangles. And then we get inflammation and oxidative stress which ensues.

Now, we know that tau protein phosphorylation is a major contributor. I just mentioned these tangles that we see. and you’ve probably seen them on imaging, we know that amyloid beta peptides or proteins also accumulate as mentioned in important neurocognitive areas. And resveratrol has been shown to have the ability to minimize the aggregation or accumulation of these amyloid beta peptides which are highly toxic to the hippocampus where learning and memory are important activities that are attributed to the hippocampus. Resveratrol has also been shown to stimulate the building of new neurons. We call this neurogenesis. And as mentioned to inhibit the degeneration of the hippocampus. And the hippocampus is a pretty complex brain structure that’s fairly deeply embedded in our temporal lobe.

And as mentioned, it plays a huge role in learning and memory which is why we see learning and memory begin to go south in Alzheimer’s disease. Resveratrol antioxidant effect has also been shown to promote neuronal development. which we just mentioned, like we mentioned the neurogenesis by activating what is called a silent information regulator 1 or known as SIRT1. And SIRT1 plays a protective role in the brain protecting our brain from oxidative stress and its detrimental effects. Resveratrol has also been shown to modulate a bunch of what are called effectors. These are inside of the cell. These are signaling proteins or rather messenger molecules that can increase or decrease certain activities such as enzyme activity and even gene expression. And most of all cell signaling as mentioned. Now, there are four effectors in particular, which studies have shown get modulated by resveratrol and these four respectively are oxidative stress or at least the areas that get affected are oxidative stress, neuronal energy homeostasis, programmed cell death, also known as apoptosis and longevity.

Now, with regard to number one, oxidative stress, we have an enzyme called heme oxygenase or HO-1 which plays a protective role in inflammation. And what it does is when our heme which is a molecule that makes up hemoglobin in our red blood cells. When our heme is getting degraded and broken down into what are called biopigments. HO-1 comes along and actually promotes this activity and turns that broken heme molecule into carbon monoxide and iron.

Now another example and this is the second one we mentioned regarding cellular energy in our neurons is an enzyme called AMP kinase, which helps to activate glucose and fatty acid uptake in our cells when our cellular energy is low and this is particularly crucial in our brain. Our brain uses up at least 1/5 or 20% of our energy every 24 hours.

Now, in some people, it’s more than that, especially for those who are more wired to use their brain a lot during the day, maybe for work or just genetically. And so, this is very significant to our nervous system to keep this AMP kinase intact and to keep it active so that we can get energy when we’re low. And resveratrol plays a role in modulating this effector.

Now, a third one, a third effector is the area of programmed cell death or apoptosis. Resveratrol has been shown to modulate a factor called AIF this is known as apoptosis inducing factor. And basically, it’s a protein that helps to trigger our genetic material, particularly our chromatin to condense and also for our DNA to get fragmented in order to induce programmed cell death, which of course is an important process in our bodies.

Because then that cell dies and it can get cleaned up and removed and we can build new cells. And then finally, there’s a fourth effector and this is in the area of longevity, as mentioned. Resveratrol has been found to modulate what are called Sirtuins, which are signaling proteins heavily involved in metabolic regulation. They play a particularly vital role in preserving our genomic integrity. And they’ve been found to be a pretty promising target in the anti aging community for reversing aging. Now, as you can probably see, resveratrol packs a lot of punch, no pun intended. 

We’ve just just covered the surface of resveratrol. I think it’s incredibly important that we consider adding it as a tool to our toolbox as naturopathic and or functional medicine practitioners, particularly in the treatment of complex chronic illness, such as CIRS or chronic inflammatory response syndrome where we often see mold illness and tick-borne illness overlaid or active at the same time in the same patient. And of course, that’s my specialty. So I use resveratrol often and I see its benefit.

That concludes today’s episode of the Modern Vital Podcast. We’d really love to hear from you. We value your feedback. If you have any questions or suggestions, please reach out to me and Also feel free to leave us a review if you enjoyed this episode and we look forward to having you join us next week for another exciting episode of the Modern Vital Podcast.


About Me

Dr. Ben Reebs, ND, is an award-winning, naturopathic physician with a focus in environmental medicine, which looks at how environmental factors can cause chronic disease. He specializes in chronic infections, autoimmune disease, and digestive health.

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