The findings add to other ways in which resveratrol is known to benefit heart health -helping to prevent blood clots and also possibly reducing cholesterol.
Resveratrol remains a new ingredient to the supplement industry and is not currently supplied by European grape products companies. There are some resveratrol supplements available in the US although European industry remains wary over its regulatory status.
Nevertheless research showing that this ingredient has a major impact on heart health could see increasing interest in its use as a supplement.
Writing in the American Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology, Joshua Bomser and colleagues from Ohio State University report that treating rat heart cells called fibroblasts with resveratrol prevented the actions of a potent hormone called angiotensin II.
In hypertension and heart failure, angiotensin II is produced at a high level, which is the body's way of trying to repair damage to the heart and to increase blood pressure.
But the hormone often causes cardiac fibroblast production to go into overdrive, and, as a result, these cells produce excessive amounts of collagen - a fibrous substance found in bone, tendons, ligaments and other connective tissues.
"This hyper-secretion of collagen leads to a stiffening of the heart muscle," Bomser said. "So the heart has to work harder to pump blood, which causes further damage to the myocardium."
The researchers pretreated rat cardiac fibroblasts with resveratrol prior to adding angiotensin II to the cells. Resveratrol treatment inhibited angiotensin II's ability to cause growth and proliferation of the cardiac fibroblasts.
Resveratrol also prevented these cells from turning, or differentiating, into myofibroblasts, a specialized type of fibroblast that produces large quantities of collagen.
"These results suggest that resveratrol has anti-fibrotic properties in the myocardium," Bomser said.