Red wine may be good for the brain, researchers say

Researchers have found that drinking a little red wine can delay the onset of neuro-degenerative disease, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. 

Let there be no misunderstanding -- heavy alcohol intake has more harmful, severe effects. But for several years, researchers have been finding that moderate wine consumption can be beneficial to the body. Dr. Esteban-Fernández from the Institute of Food Science Research in Madrid and her colleagues have been looking into the underlying the neuro-protective actions of wine on a molecular level.

According to the study published in Frontiers in Nutrition, wine compounds are protective against brain cell death, on one condition: they should pass through your stomach first. 

Instead of investigating wine directly, researchers studied the compounds left after wine has passed through the gut, the so-called wine-derived human gut metabolites. They picked out the specific metabolites they wanted to really focus on based on their presence in urine and feces of people who drank wine on a regular, moderate basis.

The metabolites were added to human cells under stress conditions that were related to initial stages of some neuro-degenerative diseases and normally led to cell dysfunction and death.

►Related: Blueberries linked to improved brain function in older people

The study found that metabolites protected cells from dying due to the stress conditions. The most striking result of the study -- metabolites were seen to be active at different points in the cell's signal to death, meaning the exact makeup of the metabolites is important to cell protection. Specific metabolite makeup is dependent on the microbes the gut, as the microbes break down wine into different types of metabolites.

"In other words, differences in our gut micro biota are leading to the different metabolites. Which underpins the idea that humans benefit from food in different ways," Dr. Esteban-Fernández explains. "This individual difference is a factor not to be neglected to understand the health effects of certain foods. We are now in need to advance our understanding of the effect of diet in the promotion of normal brain function."

Dr. Esteban-Fernandez says that it's important to realize that certain food compounds are responsible for this health benefit -- no medication was involved. 

"I am not advocating to replace medicines by diet, but I want to raise more awareness how your diet is helping to prevent diseases or reduces the risk of getting sick," she says. "It is more than feasible to go to the supermarket and buy vegetables and fruit: it depends only on the individuals to maintain a balanced diet."

To read the full study, click here. 

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April Stevens is a multi-platform producer at WZZM 13. Have a news tip? Email news@wzzm13.com, visit our Facebook page or Twitter.

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