Wine could protect from neurodegenerative disease

Moderate alcohol consumption could provide some protection from the onset of cognitive impairments and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimers, recent research has suggested.

The research focused on the role of wine-derived metabolites, which remain after the wine has passed through the gut.

A study recently published in the science journal Frontiers in Nutrition, led by Dr. Esteban-Fernández from the Institute of Food Science Research in Madrid, set out to investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying the neuroprotective actions of wine.

Rather than focusing on the wine itself, researchers studied the compounds that are left after the wine has passed through the gut, known as metabolites. The team identified these metabolites based on their presence in the urine and faeces of people consuming wine on a regular to moderate basis.

These metabolites were then added to human neurones, with researchers inducing stress to simulate the conditions that usually lead to neuronal death and neurodegenerative diseases.

They found that the wine-derived metabolites prevented the neurones from dying under stress. Furthermore, the metabolites were found to be active at different points during the cell signalling process, which ultimately leads to neuronal death.

According to the researchers, this means that the exact composition of the wine metabolites is crucial for this protective effect, and that this composition depends on the composition of the gut microbiome – that is, the trillions of microorganisms living inside our intestines.

“In other words, differences in our gut microbiota are leading to the different metabolites. Which underpins the idea that humans benefit from food in different ways,” said Dr. Esteban-Fernández.

“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.”

While wine-derived metabolites were found to assist and protect neurones from degeneration, their effectiveness was dependent on an undetermined combination of other microbes in the gut, achieved through a balanced and healthy diet. However Esteban-Fernández did not give any indication as to what these foods might be.

“It is very important to understand that certain food compounds are responsible for this health benefit in protecting against the onset of neurodegenerative diseases; no medication was involved,” added Esteban-Fernández.

“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. 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.”

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