The Plant Kingdom has always offered us an almost endless series of substances that can help our body and that of our animals to tackle numerous problems related to our health. Among these substances, polyphenols play a very important role in keeping numerous physiological functions in balance or in restoring them when they are altered. Polyphenols are also known as "Vitamin P" because of these characteristics. Among the polyphenols, the resveratrol it is certainly one of the best known, considering that it is found in many vegetable foods and in red wine. Many plants produce it to fight fungi that can attack them, therefore one of the most important activities of resveratrol is to be a powerful antifungal. But its known activities are:
• inhibition of lipid peroxidation
• inhibition of platelet aggregation
• anti-inflammatory properties
• vasodilating properties
• anti-free radical property
• agonist activity on estrogen receptors
Its most widespread use is undoubtedly the use as a vasoprotector and in cardiovascular diseases, having powerful antioxidant activities on the vasal endothelium. Numerous studies have been conducted since the 1970s to examine the pharmacology of resveratrol and identify possible uses in the clinical setting. These studies have highlighted positive biological effects of resveratrol in inflammatory processes, in oncology, cardiovascular, in the control of obesity, during type 2 diabetes and in neurology (Aggarwal et al., 2004).
Resveratrol, like other polyphenols, has been shown to induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancer cells (Surh et al. 2003). Prior to this study, resveratrol had been shown to be effective in reducing tumor mass in preclinical studies carried out in the rat. The anticancer action was evident in all three stages of a tumor: tumor development, promotion and progression. The chemoprotective effects of resveratrol had also been confirmed in in vitro studies on cells from human tumors. Resveratrol is able to counteract the action of carcinogens through two different mechanisms:
1- inhibition of phase I enzymes (reduction of the activation of carcinogens);
2- increase in the activity of phase II enzymes (increase in detoxification processes).
Resveratrol exhibits a powerful anti-free radical activity, i.e. it is able to counteract the damage induced by free radicals (ROS, Reacting Oxygen Species) through intrinsic anti-oxidant mechanisms but also by inducing the body to activate anti-ROS cellular systems.
Resveratrol performs anti-inflammatory activity by inhibiting the transcriptional function of NF-kB and VEGF-induced angiogenesis (Guo et al., 2014; Ozcan Cenksoy et al., 2014).
NF-kB (nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells) is a transcription factor that activates and is involved in cell reactions in response to stimuli such as stress, trauma, free radicals, irradiation and play a key role in immune response processes to infections. Activation of NF-kB is always related to changes in the immune system and the development of inflammation.
VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) is the growth factor of the vascular endothelium: it is a molecule that stimulates mitosis of the endothelial cell and is therefore involved in the formation of new blood vessels (angiogenesis).
Many cancer cells produce VEGF in order to stimulate the formation of blood vessels simultaneously with the growth of the tumor in order to grow faster. Resveratrol manages to inhibit the synthesis and release of VEGF and the synthesis of metalloproteases, enzymes that allow the migration of blood vessels by degrading the proteins of the connective matrix (Zhang, Yang, 2014).
On the cardiovascular side, resveratrol increases the synthesis of nitric oxide (NO), a powerful endogenous vasodilator, probably involved in the anti-proliferative, anti-thrombotic and anti-atherogenic actions attributed to resveratrol itself. Furthermore, resveratrol exhibits inhibitory effects on platelet aggregation and on the oxidation of low density lipoprotein (LDL), showing positive effects in case of myocardial damage from reperfusion-ischemia (Bradamante, 2004).
On the immune system, resveratrol was effective in modulating the inflammatory response induced by both mechanical and infectious stimuli. In fact, it has proven effective in counteracting the increase in pro inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-1beta, interleukin-6 and TNF-alpha (tumor necrosis factor), as well as inhibiting enzymes involved in inflammatory processes such as cycloosigenase 2 (COX2), the chemokine MCP-1 (protein that promotes the migration of white blood cells to the inflammation sites) and the inducible nitric oxide synthetase (iNOS), (Vang et al., 2011).
On nervous tissue, animal studies have highlighted several important activities, such as the reduction of lipid peroxidation and the destruction of nerve cells, the reduction of areas subject to damage, the reduction of seizure frequency, improvement of motor coordination and capacity of learning (Vang et al., 2011).
Resveratrol is capable of stimulating the lipolysis and apoptosis of the adipocytes, thus reducing the fat mass also through their accumulation in the adipose tissue. Resveratrol is capable of regulating the production of adiponectin, a hormone that controls fat consumption and which has been found to be deficient in obese people (Rosenow et al., 2012).
HOW DOES IT PROTECT US FROM VIRUSES?
But not everyone knows that the resveratrol has antiviral activities very powerful especially on Herpes simplex virus (HSV) 1 and 2 and on HSV-1-acyclovir-resistant, counteracting replication and acting directly on the transcription of the viral genome and on the synthesis of DNA.
Resveratrol acts directly on the gene expression of some key proteins that are used by the virus both to infect cells and for their replication within them. An Italian study has demonstrated the anti-replicative effect of resveratrol also against influenza A viruses.
Some viruses, such as the Respiratory Syncytial Virus, induce in the course of the infection a powerful release of inflammatory cytokines. Resveratrol is able to reduce the synthesis of these molecules that are able to attract inflammatory cells that damage the tissue, effectively worsening the clinical picture.
In summary, this extraordinary natural molecule can be very useful for supporting numerous biological functions aimed at preserving and maintaining an optimal physical state.
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