Red Wine “Wonderdrug”

An ingredient of red wine really is a ‘wonderdrug’, claim scientists, after research suggested it kills cancer cells and protects the heart and brain from damage.

Source: Daily Telegraph
By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent
Published: 7:00AM BST 12 Jun 2009

Researchers claim moderate drinking of red wine appears to reduce “all causes of mortality” and protects people from age-related disorders such as dementia, diabetes and high blood pressure.

They said that the key ingredient appears to be resveratrol which in small doses acts as an antioxidant protecting organs but in larger quantities kills dangerous cancer cells.

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“The breadth of benefits is remarkable – cancer prevention, protection of the heart and brain from damage, reducing age-related diseases such as inflammation, reversing diabetes and obesity, and many more,” said Professor Lindsay Brown of the University of Queensland.

The conclusions were drawn by Professor Brown and her team after a “mini review” of a number of recent studies about the health benefits of red wine published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

The biochemists said that red wine appears to contain a number of antioxidants – naturally-occurring protective compounds – which are good for your health but that resveratrol was the most powerful.

They concluded that it “shows therapeutic potential” for cancer and heart disease and may aid in the prevention of age-related disorders that affect the brain and the body.

The ability to protect healthy cells but kill diseased ones was still puzzling scientists, the study claimed, but they said the most likely explanation was low concentrations “activate survival mechanisms of cells while high concentrations turn on the inbuilt death signals in these cells”.

But the researchers warned that moderation was the key as too much drinking causes multiple organ damage.

Professor Stephen Taylor, also at the University of Queensland, said that resveratrol is the “compound du jour” and that its beauty was that it is a medicine most people enjoy taking.

“I think that red wine has both some mystique and some historical symbolism in the west and of course, some various pleasures attached to its ingestion, all of which give it a psychological advantage edge, food-wise,” he said.

He said “not many of us can or will eat a couple of cups of blueberries a day for years on end” but we were happy to have a glass of wine.

Professor Brown said the research was starting to explain reports from the last 200 years that drinking red wine improves health.

“It is a cliché that nature is a treasure trove of compounds,” she said. “But studies with resveratrol show that this is correct. We need to understand better the vast array of compounds that exist in nature, and determine their potential benefits to health.”

Red Wine & Digestion

Portuguese study finds the beverage triggers chemical reactions inside the stomach.

Red Wine Helps Kick-Start Good Digestion
Source: Wine Spectator
Jacob Gaffney
Posted: October 14, 2009

Red wine not only goes well with a nice meal, it helps the stomach convert potentially harmful chemicals into less dangerous molecules before they’re circulated in the body, according to a new study slated to be published in an upcoming journal of Toxicology. A team of Portuguese researchers found that specific polyphenols in red wine trigger the release of nitric oxide, a chemical that relaxes the stomach wall, helping to optimize digestion.

According to co-author Dr. João Laranjinha, an associate professor at the Center for Neurosciences and Cell Biology at the University of Coimbra, Portugal, the research bucks current theory. Since the 1990s, many researchers have believed that many of wine’s observed health benefits are due to the antioxidative properties of polyphenols. Studies have found wine appears to counteract deleterious, oxidative injury to the body’s molecules and cells, as with chronic, inflammatory conditions such as atherosclerosis, a condition in which fatty material collects along the walls of arteries.

Many of these studies suggest that people would need to consume impossibly large amounts of red wine in order to see any antioxidative benefit, because polyphenols are extensively metabolized during absorption in the intestines, said Laranjinha. Estimates range anywhere from a couple of bottles per day, to 10,000 per week.

But an earlier study by the same team and published in Free Radical Biology & Medicine in 2008 found that red wine’s benefits may begin before it reaches the intestine. “We started to check for beneficial effects occurring before the absorption phase, that is in the stomach,” said Laranjinha. “Overall, the observations of the current study suggest a new pathway for the health benefits of wine ethanol and polyphenols in humans, beyond antioxidant activity, via production of nitric oxide.”

While in large doses nitric oxide is a pollutant, in smaller amounts it can dilate arteries, helping blood flow. It also has the ability to “relax” the walls of the stomach, allowing nutrients to pass more freely into the bloodstream. In the earlier study, Laranjinha and his team noted that red wine showed a higher level of another chemical, called ethyl nitrite, when compared to non-alcoholic beverages and brandy. Ethyl nitrite, they found, reacts with potentially harmful free radicals, called nitrites, by chemically converting the molecules into nitric oxide. (Nitrites are found in salty and processed meats and can react poorly in the body, forming carcinogens.)

For the current research, the Portuguese researchers used samples of various red-wine polyphenols, such as catechin, epicatechin and quercetin, which are also found abundantly in apples, berries and onions.

To test if these polyphenols reduce the levels of nitrites in the stomach, the scientists examined the combined effect on preserved rodent gastric strips and on a sample of synthetic stomach acid. After 60 minutes of being exposed to the polyphenols, the stomach strips relaxed and the acid showed high levels of ethyl nitrite.

Taking it one step further, they recruited six healthy volunteers to eat a serving of lettuce, which is known to produce nitrites in the stomach, then served them red wine. After 60 minutes the participants would regurgitate into airtight containers so the contents could be examined. The scientists also found high levels of nitric oxide in the stomach acid.

“Both major [components] of red wine, the polyphenols and the ethanol, may induce beneficial effects via production of nitric oxide,” said Laranjinha. “Mechanistically, the polyphenols reduce the nitrites consumed in the diet into nitric oxide in the stomach, and the ethanol reacts with nitrite and derived species in the stomach yielding a new molecule, ethyl nitrite, that releases the nitric oxide.”