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Red wine helps boost metabolism

Drinking red wine could help overweight people burn fat better and improve liver function, according to a study by US scientists.

Wine-GlassesAuthors of the study suggest an acid found in red grapes could help people manage obesity and metabolic disorders such as fatty liver disease.

As part of the study, human liver and fat cells grown in the lab were exposed to extracts of four natural chemicals found in Muscadine grapes, a red grape native to the southeastern United States.

Ellagic acid was found to dramatically slow the growth of existing fat cells and formation of new ones, while boosting metabolism of fatty acids in liver cells.

Neil Shay, a biochemist and molecular biologist at Oregon State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences, cautioned that it was “not a weight-loss miracle”, but that by that by boosting the burning of fat, especially in the liver, the compound may improve liver function in overweight people.

“We didn’t find, and we didn’t expect to, that these compounds would improve body weight,” he said.

“If we could develop a dietary strategy for reducing the harmful accumulation of fat in the liver, using common foods like grapes,” Shay said, “that would be good news.”

The study, conducted in partnership with the University of Florida and University of Nebraska, follows research carried out at Oregon State University on mice in 2013.

Shay supplemented the diets of overweight mice with extracts from Pinot Noir grapes harvested from Corvallis-area vineyards. Some of the mice were fed a normal diet of “mouse chow,” as Shay calls it, containing 10% fat while the rest were fed a diet of 60% fat – a diet that would lead to weight gain in humans.

“Our mice like that high-fat diet,” said Shay, “and they overconsume it. So they’re a good model for the sedentary person who eats too much snack food and doesn’t get enough exercise.”

The grape extracts, scaled down to a mouse’s nutritional needs, were about the equivalent of one and a half cups of grapes a day for a person. Over a 10-week trial, the high-fat-fed mice developed fatty liver and diabetic symptoms – “the same metabolic consequences we see in many overweight, sedentary people,” Shay said.

However the high fat mice that were given extracts of Pinot Noir accumulated less fat in their livers, and had lower blood sugar than those that consumed the high-fat diet alone. Ellagic acid proved to be the driving force lowering the high-fat-fed mice’s blood sugar to nearly the levels of the lean, normally fed mice. Shay believes that ellagic acid help trigger the metabolism of dietary fat and glucose.

The study was published in the January issue of the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.

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