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Resveratrol was, over two decades ago, deemed responsible for the French Paradox - you can eat, drink and be merry whilst enjoying a long and healthy life. A component of grape skins (and grape seeds), resveratol continues to enjoy great press. It is hailed as a cure for cancer and heart disease and acts as an anti-ager that turns up in wrinkle creams. Still, there is a nagging doubt as I pour my evening glass of Burgundy; what if resveratrol isn't all its cracked up to be?
Resveratrol is a phytoalexin, a defense mechanism produced by several plants (it is in peanut skins) to fend off attacking bacteria. There is documented proof of its cancer-fighting and anti-aging properties. The problem is that the proof has been entirely substantiated in a petri dish or on worms, fruit flies and small animals. Could the quantity of resveratrol in grape skin possibly exist in quantities sufficient to explain the French Paradox?
Some scientists think that a cocktail of antioxidant polyphenols is the key. Resveratrol is a non-flavanoid polyphenol. But the flavinoid polyphenols are interesting - potentially more so than resveratrol. One flavenoid is quercetin, which is abundant in onion leaves and papaya shoots as well as guava.
The thing about quercetin is that it may be a much more of a powerful antioxidant than was previously thought. Cornell University has a new way of measuring antioxidant potency called 'cellular antioxidant activity' (CAA) that tests the antioxidant activities of a compound inside the cell itself. This is an approach that is deemed to be more accurate. Of all the flavenoids, quercetin had the highest CAA value.
It seems that all those antioxidant marvels touted by resveratrol can also be acheived by quercetin. And quercetin exists in greater quantities in red wine. The most abundant source of quercetin is, believe or not, capers. Followed by dill weed, fennel leaves, buckwheat and bee pollen. Red grapes are way down the list.
On balance, I have decided to enjoy my glass of burgundy whilst researching potions rich in capers.