Resveratrol and Cancer
Resveratrol is a polyphenolic compound found in red grapes and wine, peanuts and certain types of berries.
In the past decades, resveratrol has been extensively studied for its health benefits. There is strong evidence that resveratrol has anti-cancer properties.
Anti-Cancer Action of Resveratrol
Resveratrol has been shown to inhibit cancer in all its stages. It helps prevent the development of cancer, inhibits its growth, and triggers cancer cell death. Resveratrol has the following actions:
- It has anti-inflammatory effects
Long term inflammation is known to increase cancer risk – by reducing inflammation resveratrol helps with cancer prevention (through counteracting NF-kappa B and AP-1 transcription and inhibiting the activity of several inflammatory enzymes, such as cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase).
- Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant
Free radicals cause damage to the body. Antioxidants – such as resveratrol – act as free radical scavengers. They help to alleviate the effect of free radicals and reduce the risk of cancer.
- It inhibits tumor invasion
Cancerous cells invade other, normal body tissue. They do this with the help of certain enzymes, called matrix metalloproteinas. Resveratrol has been found to suppress the activity of some types of these enzymes.
- Resveratrol slows down tumor growth by preventing angiogenesis
Tumor needs to develop its blood supply in order to grow. This process is called angiogenesis. Resveratrol inhibits angiogenesis and thus limits the growth of cancer.
- It stimulates apoptosis (programmed cell death of cancer cells)
Cancer cells divide and grow uncontrollably. Resveratrol has been found to induce cell cycle arrest and promote the death of cancer cells.
Resveratrol has two main advantages over the conventional chemotherapy. First - unlike chemotherapeutic agents, it isn't toxic to healthy cells. And second - since it works through different molecular pathways, cancer cells find it harder to develop resistance to its actions.
What Do The Studies Say?
In vitro (lab tube tests) and small animal studies have shown that resveratrol has remarkable anti-cancer properties. However, clinical studies in humans haven't been able to duplicate such results.
There is evidence that taking resveratrol may be useful for cancer prevention. For cancers that have already developed, resveratrol doesn’t seem to be efficient.
What is the reason behind that? Many experts attribute this to the fact that resveratrol has a fairly low bioavailibilty. This means that once ingested, it is quickly metabolized and eliminated from the body. That is why it is hard to achieve the needed concentration of resveratrol in the target tissue and organs.
For that reason, scientists are looking for more efficient ways to deliver resveratrol. One method that looks promising is co-administration of resveratrol with piperine (black pepper extract). Piperine affects the way resveratrol is metabolized in the liver. When resveratrol is taken together with piperine, it is able to stay longer in the body.
Another substance that seems to act synergistically with resveratrol is quercetin. Many resveratrol supplements already contain an addition of quercetin as well as other polyphenols and flavonoids.
In short – human studies of cancer and resveratrol are few and most of them still in early stages. The main challenge that scientists face is how to translate health benefits of resveratrol, proven in tube and animal studies, to clinical results. The answer probably lies in finding an effective molecular vehicle, which would help to achieve high concentrations of resveratrol in target tissues.
How To Take Resveratrol (Dosage, Side effects and Interactions)
It has been proven that the effect of resveratrol is dose-dependent. In small doses, resveratrol has even been shown to promote the growth of certain cancer cells. In large doses, resveratrol inhibits cancer growth and triggers apoptosis (cancer cell death).
Finding the right does is therefore essential. If you are taking resveratrol for its anti-cancer properties, always consult with your physician regarding the dose and possible interactions with your other medications.
Resveratrol is metabolized by the liver's cytochrome P 450 enzyme. There are many other medications that are also processed through P 450 complex. When you are taking resveratrol with these medications, it affects their metabolism, changes their blood levels, and time in the body.
Resveratrol has estrogen-like properties and promotes transcription by both androgen and estrogen receptors. This may lead to stimulation and growth of cancer cells in patients with hormone sensitive cancers.
It is recommendable for such patients to stay away from resveratrol supplementation altogether.
It has been proven that resveratrol is not toxic to human body and doesn't present health risks in doses up to 5 grams per day. Some people may experience mild gastrointestinal distress and diarrhea when starting resveratrol supplementation.
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