Could wine have a protective effect on the brain? A team of researchers at the Institute of Food Science Research in Madrid, Spain, have studied the process by which compounds in red wine have an anti-aging effect on the brain.
When consumed in moderation, notably as part of a Mediterranean diet, red wine, which contains polyphenol antioxidants, can be beneficial in delaying the onset of cognitive impairments in aging and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, researchers report.
Resveratrol - a substance found in red wine and chocolate - could help prevent age-related memory loss.
To investigate the molecular mechanisms behind the neuroprotective actions of wine, researchers in Spain studied certain compounds that are left behind after the wine has passed through the gut - wine-derived human gut metabolites.
These are found in the urine and faeces of people who drink wine on a regular and moderate basis.
To study the effects of these metabolites on the brain, the compounds were added to human cells under stress conditions, similar to the initial stages of certain neurodegenerative disorders.
According to the results, published in Frontiers in Nutrition, the wine metabolites protected the cells from dying due to the stress conditions.
The scientists explain that the exact composition of wine metabolites influences the neuroprotective effect. This composition, in turn, depends on the composition of each individual's gut microbiota.
In other words, wine is broken down into different metabolites depending on the gut flora of each individual.
"[This] underpins the idea that humans benefit from food in different ways," explains Dr. Esteban-Fernández from the Institute of Food Science Research in Madrid.
"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."
The study concludes that diet can be considered an important factor in health maintenance and disease prevention.
Antioxidant nutrients are mainly found in brightly coloured fruit and vegetables such as carrots, apricots, sweet potato, bell peppers and green leafy vegetables.