Champagne may bubble with more than deliciousness. According to research from a team at the Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy department of the University of Reading in the United Kingdom, organic acids in the French sparkling wine actually increase brainpower.
In their report, published in the journal Antioxidants & Redox Signaling, the authors explain that research showing certain chemicals in foods can improve memory is extensive, but there is a lack of data on phenolic acids. The team served Champagne (equivalent to a glass per day for people) to lab rats for six weeks and found the rodents showed an improvement in spatial working memory, thanks to improved cell-cycle regulation in the cortex and hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls learning and memory.
Lead researcher Dr. Giulia Corona said the tests show promise for humans as well. "Daily supplementation with a low-to-moderate doses of Champagne for six weeks led to an improvement in memory," Corona told Wine Spectator, "indicating phenolic compounds in Champagne may interact directly with nerve cells, improve the communication between cells and encourage nerves that carry electrical signals in the brain to regenerate."
A recent national study provides a comprehensive examination of links between alcohol and cancer. The researchers, from several public heath centers across the United States, pulled data on hundreds of thousands of deaths from national medical databases from previous studies. They report in the American Journal of Public Health that alcohol use is responsible for 3.5 percent of all cancer deaths, calling it a prominent cause of early mortality.
Alcohol has been linked in past studies with seven types of cancer in particular: pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colon, rectum, liver and breast. The risk of cancer, the researchers found, rises when the amount of consumption surpasses the daily-recommended limit of less than two glasses for women and less than three for men. However, they found that 30 percent of alcohol-linked cancer deaths were in a population who still drank within these limits.
The authors conclude that the reduction of alcohol consumption should be recommended to those at risk, in the same way smokers are told to quit tobacco. But precisely why alcohol is linked to some cancers remains unclear.
"It is my understanding that there is no one mechanism by which alcohol is thought to cause cancer," lead researcher David Nelson of the National Cancer Institute told Wine Spectator. And such a study is limited by the available data. “We did not examine cancer risk by alcohol-specific beverage because research on beverage-specific risks for cancer is limited and inconsistent," Nelson said.
Another meta-analysis of health data shows no link between ovarian cancer and alcohol. Researchers across North America and Europe, working for the Ovarian Cancer Association Consortium, pooled data from nearly 15,000 cases. One-third of the study participants have been diagnosed with the disease, with another 1,455 showing "borderline" tumors.
The scientists said causes for the cancer remain "elusive," and previous study results are inconsistent. But the data showed no pattern of alcohol consumption and ovarian cancer.
Mark Goldberger — Boston, MA — March 20, 2013 1:12pm ET
Adam Wallstein — Spokane, WA — March 20, 2013 8:31pm ET
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