The word “sugar” may conjure up images of sweet treats, or it may be the name of the neighbor’s dog. But in many circles—especially if you have fully embraced the keto lifestyle— “sugar” might be thought of as more of a nutritional villain than a tasty treat.
But I would also say that the word “sugar” is often misunderstood. The form of sugar in your body—blood sugar, or blood glucose—is actually a good thing because it delivers energy to your organs and bodily systems. (It’s the table sugar and added sugar, on the other hand, that aren’t so much of a good thing.) We need blood glucose. And we need it via the foods we eat. No food, no energy, no bodily functions.
But we’ve also been living in a very dangerous time, health-wise, because we—as a society—have simply pummeled our insides with too much sugar. And we’ve done this with the quantity of food we have consumed, as well as the kinds of food we have consumed. Elevated blood sugar means more health problems, more health risks, weight gain—and many more issues that can drain the energy from you and cascade into a multitude of other health problems.
While there are many ways to address this issue (diet being a primary one), it is also worth noting that you can bring in reinforcements. Of those reinforcements, one comes in the form of my favorite compound, resveratrol. Let’s see how resveratrol works to help improve your blood sugar and reduce the risk of developing the disease associated with high blood sugar—diabetes.
Diabetes is a disease in which your blood glucose or blood sugar level is too high. In 2015, 30.3 million Americans, or 9.4 percent of the population, had diabetes, and more than 100 million U.S. adults are now living with diabetes or prediabetes.[*][*]One of the major problems is that people with diabetes are at increased risk of serious health complications including premature death, vision loss, heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and amputation of toes, feet, or legs.
How it Works: Every time you eat, you’re supplying your blood with glucose, which is what gives your body energy to function. In order for your body to use the glucose, you need insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps the glucose get into your cells to give them energy. Without enough insulin, the glucose stays in your blood. When it stays in your blood, that’s when the problems start. Your body wants to keep this level stable (this is part of the metabolic homeostasis process, where your body tries to operate in a steady-state). But when glucose is too high (often because of high-calorie consumption and/or the body’s inability to produce insulin to shuttle glucose away), that leads to an elevated blood sugar level.
A persistent elevation in blood glucose leads to glucose toxicity, which contributes to cell dysfunction and the pathology grouped together as complications of diabetes.
The Rundown on Resveratrol
Resveratrol is a naturally occurring polyphenol found in almost 70 plants and fruits.[*] It can be found in fruits, like blueberries, blackberries, and grapes, and even peanuts and cocoa/dark chocolate.[*]It’s often associated with red wine (because of the skin of the grapes), with Pinot Noir and St Laurent grape varieties boasting the highest levels of resveratrol. Resveratrol is well absorbed by humans, but its bioavailability is relatively low because it is rapidly metabolized and eliminated.[*][*]In the last few years, resveratrol has been shown to exert beneficial effects in organisms and may be helpful in preventing and treating some metabolic diseases, including diabetes.
Resveratrol and Diabetes
There have been several studies that suggest that resveratrol can have a positive effect on blood glucose levels. For example:
- In a review of animal studies, resveratrol has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, glucose tolerance, and lipid profiles. Resveratrol was shown to reduce blood glucose levels in rats that were type 1 & 2 diabetic/hyperglycemic, and it did so by signaling for the activation of glycolysis, a process that breaks down glucose (and thus decreases blood glucose levels). It also did so by protecting cells that produce insulin. It showed that resveratrol delayed the onset of diabetes in mice and also reduced the severity of the disease.[*]
- In a human study of people with type 2 diabetes, resveratrol significantly lowered fasting glucose levels and fasting insulin concentrations, and improved insulin sensitivity (it also decreased blood pressure and had a positive effect on cholesterol levels).[*]
- A small study of people who were obese showed that resveratrol increased insulin sensitivity and lowered blood sugar levels after 30 days. It also raised levels of an enzyme that plays a role in turning off a gene that increases blood sugar (and fat deposits).[*]
The thinking is that resveratrol helps the biological transportation system of glucose—that is, by promoting cells to take in more glucose, which reduces insulin resistance and means less glucose circulating in the blood.
Other Relationships with Resveratrol and Diabetes
Resveratrol may play a role in a number of other ways, particularly in its role as an antioxidant. It protects the insulin-secreting cells of the pancreas, which helps increase insulin when it’s low, as well as decrease it when it’s high.[*][*] In addition, resveratrol activated Sirtuin1, which can increase insulin sensitivity (Sirtuin 1 is downregulated in cells that have high insulin resistance, suggesting that the molecule is associated with improving insulin sensitivity).[*][*]
A Note About Diet
Certainly, one of the greatest threats to our overall health, especially when it comes to high blood sugar and diabetes, is a poor diet. When you eat more calories than you burn, your body can’t keep up, and the excess glucose circulates in your blood (damaging your blood vessels and getting stored as fat). In addition, the kinds of calories you consume also plays a role, in that simple sugars (like refined carbs and sugars) immediately go into the bloodstream, making it harder for your body to transport them. It’s one of the many reasons why I love the keto lifestyle because you primarily use fat as an energy source, thus decreasing the chance of elevating your blood sugar. (I also love the boost in energy I feel all day long, rather than the highs and lows you can feel when consuming simple sugars that make your energy levels fluctuate.)
If you’re already on diabetic medication/insulin, be sure to consult a doctor before introducing resveratrol into your diet.