Trans-Resveratrol and Longevity: Here’s What You Need to Know

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Trans-resveratrol is the most bioavailable form of resveratrol.

Discovered in 1939, resveratrol became a household buzzword around the early 2000s as a promoter of practices like drinking wine for heart health due to its overall anti-inflammatory effect. However, in the last 20 years, scrutiny followed resveratrol’s glorification as a “magic bullet” to cardiovascular health, as did several clinical trials that resulted in mixed findings. Questions emerged as to whether or not resveratrol alone could be readily absorbed through the mouth and digestive tract.

But today, Harvard geneticist and anti-aging expert David Sinclair, PhD, has once again brought resveratrol into the spotlight. He’s known for his longevity-promoting combination of 1,000 mg of NMN powder and between 500 and 1,000 mg of resveratrol with yogurt in the mornings. 

However, all resveratrol is not created equal. One of the most consistently agreed upon discoveries in the world of longevity is that of trans-resveratrol — the active and bioavailable component that gives resveratrol its many health benefits.

Let's take a closer look at trans-resveratrol and learn why it's a superior longevity supplement. 

What is Resveratrol, and How Does it Work?

Resveratrol is a stilbenoid, a type of natural phenol, and a phytoalexin that is produced by some plants as an antimicrobial response to a pathogenic infection. Substances derived from phytoalexin exert multiple biological effects such as anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative, antioxidant, neuroprotective, and immunomodulating, suggests a review in Advances in Nutrition. It is synthesized by plants like Japanese knotweed, pine trees, grapevines, and peanut plants, and you’ll commonly find this compound in the skin of grapes, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, and peanuts, to name a few. 

Resveratrol is naturally occurring in grapes, peanuts, and more.

Cis-Resveratrol Versus Trans-resveratrol 

There are two chemical structures of resveratrol isoforms:

  • Cis-resveratrol
  • Trans-resveratrol

Both cis- and trans-resveratrol are naturally occurring, and the majority of the supplements on the market contain a 50/50 blend of cis- and trans-resveratrol, a combination that’s considered regular resveratrol. The cost of these supplements is generally lower, however, so is the purity — cis-resveratrol offers little to no health benefits due to the lack of bioavailability. Thus, this low-cost option is ultimately useless. 

On the other hand, supplements consisting of trans-resveratrol, the active ingredient in resveratrol supplements, are considered to be more biologically active, making it easier for the body to absorb and utilize. Among the kinds of resveratrol that have been studied, trans-resveratrol provides the majority of the health benefits you’ve probably heard about. Let’s take a closer look. 

4 Benefits of Trans-Resveratrol  

1. It enhances the effectiveness of NMN. 

Research has shown that resveratrol may promote lifespan-extending effects and alleviate metabolic diseases through its activation of sirtuins, the "longevity genes." Sirtuins are genes that regulate cellular health and protect the body from deterioration and disease. Together, trans-resveratrol and NMN are a powerhouse pair of longevity supplements. They have been compared to the operation of a car, with NMN as the fuel and trans-resveratrol as the accelerator pedal.

2. It’s a powerful antioxidant. 

Trans-resveratrol is a polyphenol — a plant-based antioxidant that scavenges free radicals and slows down cellular damage. And while we can all benefit from boosting our antioxidant profile, trans-resveratrol might help combat high blood pressure, blood sugar fluctuations, neurodegenerative conditions, and cardiovascular diseases. In fact, long-term administration of trans-resveratrol reduces systemic inflammation that is associated with blood pressure disorders and diminishes the risk of cardiovascular diseases. 

Furthermore, trans-resveratrol’s antioxidant qualities are neuroprotective, preserving cognitive functions in aging and some age-related diseases. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory components may protect brain cells from damage.

3. It’s a natural anti-inflammatory agent. 

Trans-resveratrol has anti-inflammatory properties to keep you feeling your best.

Stilbenoids, such as trans-resveratrol, promote anti-inflammatory activity. This anti-inflammatory property can be effective in a range of conditions, such as arthritis, Lyme disease, liver disorders, and joint diseases. Joint damage from inflammation leads to cartilage breakdown, which resveratrol works to prevent, too. 

4. It has antimicrobial properties.

Trans-resveratrol may inhibit the proliferation of bacteria such as E. Coli, and fungi such as Candida albicans. A 2019 study found that trans-resveratrol and the resveratrol derivative oxyresveratrol may be effective against uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC). E. Coli is the main causative agent in urinary tract infections (UTI) and has been shown to persist even with antibiotic treatment. The ability of trans-resveratrol to diminish pathogen-protective biofilms, leading to the killing of UPEC, warrants further attention into the role of trans-resveratrol as an antimicrobial agent.

What to look for in a resveratrol supplement 

  • A minimum of 98% pure trans-resveratrol:
    The FDA does not regulate resveratrol purity in supplements, so buyers must pay attention to labels on the products they intend to purchase. Pure trans-resveratrol is considered to be in concentrations of 98% and above. Research shows that both cis-resveratrol and trans-resveratrol are present in natural sources, but it is the trans-resveratrol that is predominant due to its bioavailability and stability. Cis-resveratrol, on the other hand, quickly degrades when exposed to light or other acidic conditions.

  • Absorption enhancing blends
    Regular resveratrol containing cis-resveratrol is 1% absorbable. Additions to pure trans-resveratrol supplements, such as quercetin, red wine extract, green tea extract, and BioPerine®, have been shown to improve absorption. For example, one study demonstrated an increase of resveratrol of up to 1544% from 229% after the inclusion of piperine, a black pepper derivative. BioPerine® is a product sourced out of piperine and is the only one to obtain a patented status for increasing bioavailability of nutritional compounds. 

Safety Considerations:

Toxicity associated with trans-resveratrol is rare. However, in long-term doses of 2.5 g or more per day, side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea have occurred in some studies. Consult with your doctor before taking new supplements of any kind, especially high dose resveratrol, as it has been reported to interact with several medications. Resveratrol increases the rate of metabolism of about half of all US-marketed drugs. High resveratrol intake can also enhance bruising and bleeding risks when taken with anticoagulant, antiplatelet, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Consult a doctor before taking trans-resveratrol supplements if you are:  

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding 
  • Estrogen sensitive
  • Taking anticoagulant, antiplatelet, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

The bottom line? If you’re looking to increase your healthspan (disease-free years of your life), trans-resveratrol has a good track record of maintaining healthy cells and defending against free radical damage. Plus, when you combine trans-resveratrol with NMN, you have a disease-fighting duo that helps keep your body strong for years to come. 

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