Just like every other thing, consuming alcohol excessively has a wide range of negative health effects. But previous research has shown that a moderate intake of wine can have positive effects on the brain, and a new study investigates why that may be so.
Despite the well-known downsides of alcohol intake, some studies have shown that a moderate intake of red wine may delay age-related decline in brain function, as well as the onset of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Moderate alcohol consumption was defined in these studies as below 25 cl daily.
A team led by Dr. Esteban-Fernández, from the Institute of Food Science Research in Madrid, Spain set out to investigate the mechanism behind this.
They examined the products of the breakdown of wine from the gut and published their findings in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition.
Wine compounds prevent brain cell death; gut bacteria play key role
These metabolites were selected from the urine and faeces of people who regularly consume moderate quantities of wine.
The researchers then added these metabolites to human nerve cells, and externally stimulated the conditions that usually lead to nerve cell death in diseases.
The study showed that these wine-derived products prevent the nerve cells from dying under these stress conditions.
The researches implied that the exact composition of the wine products is important for this protective effect. In turn, this composition depends on the type of bacteria present in the intestines, since it is their responsibility to break down the wine.
“In other words, differences in our gut microorganisms are leading to the different products. Which strengthens the idea that humans benefit from food in different ways,” Dr. Esteban-Fernández explains.
Healthful diets are vital for healthy brain function
The study lead author stresses on the need to understand the health effects of certain foods and advance our understanding of the effect of diet in the promotion of normal brain function.
She also comments on the importance of a balanced diet for preventing brain damage:
“It is very important to understand that certain food compounds are responsible for this health benefit in protecting against the onset of brain diseases; no medication was involved. I am not advocating to replace medicines by diet, but I want to raise more awareness [on] 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.”
In that same light, Dr. Esteban-Fernández also cautions against an excessive preoccupation with nutrition and urges the public to sieve through false diet information.
“Society is nowadays full of false myths about diet, and it is the role of both science and media to avoid the spread of these rumors, as well as make people aware of the importance of diet for your health,” she adds.