While there has been a lot of controversy surrounding resveratrol supplements in recent times, new research from Pennsylvania State University closes the book on fruit containing the compound and its ability to protect against colon cancer. That’s promising news for the 95,500 Americans the American Cancer Society predicts will be diagnosed with colon cancer this year alone.
The new study, published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, found that resveratrol—a plant nutrient known as a phytonutrient—may actually suppress colon cancer stem cells, giving researchers and sufferers of the disease alike hope for a new prevention and treatment strategy. Cancer stem cells are cells that are believed to drive the creation of new cancer cells and cancer tumors. The researchers found that in addition to suppressing colon cancer stem cells, resveratrol found in grapes also significantly reduced the number of cancer tumors—a whopping 50 percent reduction in the number of cancer tumors.
The same researchers also found that resveratrol in food combined with grape seed extract was an even more potent anti-cancer mixture than just resveratrol alone. They found that grape seed extract seemed to increase the potency of resveratrol.
Resveratrol has also shown great promise in the prevention and treatment of brain diseases, due to its ability to protect the brain from damage. In this capacity, resveratrol mops up harmful free radicals and protects against plaque that is linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
While it remains to be seen whether resveratrol supplements offer the many health benefits of the compound that is naturally found in foods, it is clear that the food sources of this plant nutrient may offer protection against diabetes, heart disease, liver disease and cancer. Some research even links the nutrient to the protection against damage from the heavy metal cadmium. Cadmium is found in cigarettes, black rubber, burned motor oil, some ceramics, fungicides (like those sprayed on apples, potatoes and tobacco), some refined wheat flour, tires, silver polish, some water and some soft drinks (from vending machines with cadmium in the pipes). It may also protect the kidneys against damage from the antibiotic gentamicin.
The food mixture used in the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine study involved a blend of grape skins and grape seeds. This combination offers both resveratrol and grape seed extract. I use a high-powered blender to blend whole purple grapes that contain seeds into a drink so it is easier to obtain the health benefits of grape seeds, without the unpleasant texture so many people dislike. Stir periodically as you’re drinking the grape juice blend to ensure the seed and grape skin pulp are mixed.
Experts have been recommending high amounts of colorful produce in our diet for years. Research like this new study offer greater insight into the rationale for doing so: colorful fruits and vegetables tend to have the highest amounts of phytonutrients. Purple and blue foods tend to have the highest amounts of resveratrol, but the plant nutrient is high in many foods, including: purple grapes, purple grape juice, red wine, raspberries, mulberries, blueberries, peanuts, grape seed extract, eucalyptus and spruce.
While many people tout red wine as the best source of the nutrient, the alcohol (and frequently sulfite) content offset some of its health benefits. Fresh purple grapes and grape juice tend to be the best sources of resveratrol.