Resveratrol may someday be used to develop a new class of high blood pressure drugs for humans, believe the researchers, who explored the mechanics of how it works. However, because they did not experiment on human patients, it has not been proven that these “animal findings can be translated to humans,” wrote the study authors, from King’s College London.
This is not your cue to start drinking copious amounts of red wine, they added.
The research team began their experiments by inducing high blood pressure in mice. Then, some of the rodents were fed a diet high in resveratrol for 15 days. Compared with mice eating a normal diet, the blood pressure of those that consumed high quantities of resveratrol dropped a significant amount.
How did this happen? Resveratrol caused the blood vessels to relax, leading to a decrease in blood pressure, because a protein called PKG1a in the vessel walls had been oxidized, the researchers explained. Resveratrol acts in the same way in smooth muscle cells from human blood vessels, they found.
The study also suggests that resveratrol’s blood pressure-lowering abilities might be accentuated in those who need it most: heart disease patients. The beneficial compound needs to be activated to oxidize the protein, and those activating compounds are found at higher concentrations in heart patients, the researchers explained.
Red wine is not the answer
Such a high dose was needed because resveratrol must be broken down to reach its target in the blood vessel wall, and it does not dissolve well, the study authors explained. Future drugs may require either altered, easy-to-dissolve resveratrol or synthetic compounds that mimic its beneficial effects.
Patton, who was not involved in the study, told Science Media Centre that “Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with increases in blood pressure, and this can lead to cardiovascular problems like heart attacks and strokes.”
It’s a good idea to reduce not increase your wine intake, he added: “Relaxing with a glass of red [wine] is one way to unwind at the end of the day, but on its own that is not going to help tackle hypertension; losing weight, taking regular exercise and lowering your stress levels are three of the best ways to do this.”
It’s more likely that any blood pressure lowering effects were due to the “very high concentrations of resveratrol being used rather than any relevant biological effect,” said Corder, who was not involved in the research: “Based on the data presented it is difficult to reach any satisfactory conclusions.”
“Most red wines have undetectable levels of resveratrol,” he added. “But the urban myth that resveratrol might explain the health benefits of regular red wine consumption has persisted.”