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Red wine may mitigate red meat’s dangers

June 28, 2008
Courtesy American Chemical Society
and World Science staff
Updated July 3

What hap­pens when red wine meets red meat? If that hap­pens in the stom­ach, wine’s health­ful chem­i­cals may thwart forma­t­ion of harm­ful sub­stances re­leased dur­ing di­ges­tion of fat in the meat, sci­en­tists re­port.

What hap­pens when red wine meets red meat? If it hap­pens in the stom­ach, wine’s health­ful chem­i­cals may thwart forma­t­ion of harm­ful sub­stances re­leased dur­ing di­ges­tion of fat in the meat, sci­en­tists re­port.


Re­search­ers at­trib­ute the doc­u­mented ben­e­fits of mod­er­ate wine con­sump­tion—in­clud­ing pro­tec­tion against can­cer and heart dis­ease—to its high lev­els of po­ly­phe­nols, com­pounds al­so found in fruits and veg­eta­bles. 

Polyphe­nols are pow­er­ful an­ti­ox­i­dants, sub­stances that sup­press de­struc­tive chem­i­cal re­ac­tions pro­mot­ed by ox­y­gen.

But the body does­n’t ab­sorb polyphe­nols eas­i­ly; sci­en­tists have puz­zled over how and where they ex­ert their ben­e­fits. 

The re­search­ers said they found an an­swer in tests with lab­o­r­a­to­ry rats fed ei­ther red tur­key meat or the same meat with red wine con­cen­trate. Wine con­cen­trate substan­ti­ally re­duced forma­t­ion of two byprod­ucts of fat di­ges­tion, mal­on­di­alde­hyde and hy­dro­per­ox­ide, which are tox­ic to cells, the in­ves­ti­ga­tors said.

The group claimed that red tur­key meat is par­ti­cu­larly prone to the harm­ful reac­tions, but that past re­search has found them to be com­mon in meat prod­ucts, red meat in par­ti­cu­lar.

The stom­ach appears to act as a “biore­ac­tor” that fa­cil­i­tates wine’s ben­e­fi­cial ef­fects, the re­search­ers wrote. The polyphe­nols work not only to pre­vent genera­t­ion of tox­ic com­pounds, but al­so to in­hib­it their en­try to the blood stream, they added.

The stu­dy, by sci­en­tists at He­brew Uni­ver­s­ity of Je­ru­sa­lem, Ha­das­sah Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Je­ru­sa­lem and The Vol­cani Cen­ter in Bet Da­gain, Is­ra­el, ap­pears in the June 11 is­sue of the Amer­i­can Chem­i­cal So­ci­ety’s Jour­nal of Ag­ri­cul­tur­al and Food Chem­is­try.


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What happens when red wine meets red meat? If it happens in the stomach, wine’s healthful chemicals may thwart formation of harmful substances released during digestion of fat in the meat, scientists report. Researchers attribute the documented health benefits of moderate wine consumption—including protection against cancer and heart disease—to its high levels of polyphenols, compounds also found in fruits and vegetables. Polyphenols are powerful antioxidants, substances that suppress destructive chemical reactions promoted by oxygen. But the body doesn’t absorb polyphenols easily; scientists have puzzled over how and where they exert their benefits. The researchers found an answer in tests with laboratory rats fed either red meat or red meat with red wine concentrate. Wine concentrate substantially reduced formation of two byproducts of fat digestion, malondialdehyde and hydroperoxide, which are toxic to cells, the investigators said. The stomach acts as a “bioreactor” that facilitates the beneficial effects, the researchers wrote. The polyphenols work not only to prevent generation of toxic compounds, but also to inhibit their entry to the blood stream, they added. The study, by scientists at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem and The Volcani Center in Bet Dagain, Israel, appears in the June 11 issue of the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.