Preventive cardiologist Nate E. Lebowitz, MD, FACC, with the Advanced Cardiology Institute in Ft. Lee, N.J., answers questions about resveratrol's heart health benefits.
Functional Ingredients: How do you respond if patients with heart disease inquire about wine drinking?
Nate E. Lebowitz, MD: The health benefits of red wine, especially in cardiovascular disease, have been well known for centuries if not thousands of years. Research in this field has clearly been accelerating over the last several years and recent events do not deter me in the least.
Fi: What about resveratrol pills. Are they still a good idea?
NL: I have been prescribing a specific resveratrol pill for the last few years for a number of my patients. This has entirely been prompted by over 10 years of science coming out of Harvard University and then subsequently studies sponsored by the National Institute of Health.
Fi: The pharma model is to treat disease once it’s occurred. Do natural medicines work differently?
NL: Everything that we are trying to do, whether in the primary prevention or secondary prevention arena, is to restore a system of health to arteries that are otherwise unhealthy. This latter is sometimes called “endothelial dysfunction,” in which arteries constrict in response to signals telling them to relax and are therefore prone to damaging the lining of the arteries, leading to cholesterol accumulation. A number of substances have been found to restore endothelial function, ranging from healthy diets to omega-3s from fish oil.
One of the most exciting areas of cardio prevention is the idea of “ischemic preconditioning.” The ability to recruit collateral blood vessels and improve endothelial function is often mediated by a molecule called adenosine. Adenosine is often reduced or compromised in people with endothelial dysfunction and arterial disease. Resveratrol has been found to significantly improve ischemic preconditioning, possibly through improved adenosine release.