National Institutes of Health researchers and their colleagues have identified how resveratrol, a naturally occurring plant compound found in red wine* and other plant products, may produce its health benefits.
Fair Warning: This gets quite scientific, even for Nutrientology readers. I became a little light-headed writing it. 🙂
Experiments have suggested that resveratrol acts on a cell regulating enzyme called sirtuin 1, however the authors present evidence that resveratrol does not directly activate sirtuin 1. Their research suggests that resveratrol inhibits certain types of proteins known as phosphodiesterases (PDEs), which are enzymes that help regulate cell energy, and it indirectly activates sirtuin 1.
Many researchers have been trying to figure out the mechanism of action of resveratrol to try to develop medicines based on this interesting plant compound. Resveratrol, or a derivative, may have potential as a therapy for some diseases such as type 2 diabetes. I have recently posted on the metabolism benefits of resveratrol in pre diabetes, and a pilot study looking at the effect of resveratrol on glucose tolerance in older adults also looks promising.
To try to figure out resveratrol’s mechanism, the researchers closely examined the metabolic activity in cells treated with resveratrol and identified PDE4 in skeletal muscle as the principal target for the health benefits of resveratrol. Once again muscle cells are found to be an important manager and modulator of metabolism. By inhibiting PDE4, resveratrol triggers a series of events, one of which indirectly activates sirtuin 1.
To confirm that resveratrol attaches to and inhibits PDE proteins, researchers gave mice a PDE inhibitor known as rolipram to see if it would mimic the effects of resveratrol. Rolipram reproduced all of the biochemical effects and health benefits of resveratrol, such as preventing diet-induced obesity, improving glucose tolerance, mitochondrial function and physical endurance. Look for PDE inhibitors to become pharmaceutical products in the future.
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*It should be noted that the amount of resveratrol found in wine or foods is quite small and nowhere near the dosages used in human clinical studies. Human studies, like the ones linked above, used about 150 mg and1 gm of resveratrol per day. One should also remember that the dose-response relationship is not always linear or direct.