For those who include wine as part of their healthy-living regimen, there's yet another reason to celebrate--with Champagne, even. According to research published in the April 18 issue of Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Champagne may help protect the brain against injuries incurred during a stroke and other ailments, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.
According to the report, which is a collaboration between researchers at the University of Reading in England and the Università degli studi di Cagliari, located in Monserrato, Italy, drinking Champagne responsibly may benefit one's health because previous research has shown the sparkling wine contains high amounts of polyphenols.
"There has been much recent interest in the potential of plant-derived polyphenols to protect against neuronal injury," wrote the study's authors. In previous research, they said, regular, moderate consumption of red wine has also been shown to help slow down premature aging and improve circulation.
Polyphenols are known antioxidants, which are believed to help prevent cell death due to oxidative stress. Though polyphenols are found in greater abundance in red wines, mainly due to longer exposure to the grape seeds and skins during the winemaking process, past studies have found Champagne to contain high amounts of other types of phenolic compounds, such as tyrosol and caffeic acid.
In order to test if the polyphenols found in Champagne are similarly beneficial to those in red wines, the scientists prepared extracts from blanc de blancs Champagnes (made with Chardonnay only) and blanc de noir Champagnes (made exclusively from Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier). After confirming that the extracts contained measurable levels of the aforementioned polyphenols, the scientist prepared several samples of cortical neuron cells from mice.
Some of the cells were left alone to serve as a control group, while the others were pretreated with the Champagne extracts. Once the nerve cells were observed to be firing, the scientists simulated a stroke by exposing the cells to a compound called peroxynitrite, a reactive compound formed in the brain during inflammatory conditions.
The scientists monitored the way the brain cells reacted to the presence of the peroxynitrite, and found that "pretreatment with Champagne wine extracts resulted in significant protection against neurotoxicity." The blanc de noir extract offered the greater protection because of the red-wine component, the authors wrote, though they pointed out that the amounts of polyphenols in Champagne vary greatly from "variety, vintage and a wide range of environmental factors."
The scientists believe the Champagne extracts protected neuron cells in several ways, noting that in the sample with the highest concentration of sparkling wine, brain-cell function was completely restored over time. The researchers added that caffeic acid and tyrosol may help to regulate the cells' response to injury with their anti-inflammatory properties. The compounds also act as cellular-level mops, essentially cleaning up and removing harmful chemicals from the body.
The scientists also wrote that there is evidence that dietary polyphenols can cross the "blood-brain barrier," which would suggest that the above molecular behavior has the potential to act in the same way, within the human central nervous system, if consumed.
"At this stage it is too early to say whether drinking Champagne may have a beneficial effect on brain aging," said Spencer, as it remains to be seen if the wine would have a similar effect on human brain cells as it did on those of mice. "However, we are about to begin a new human investigation where we will attempt to address this. Hopefully we will be able to shed more light on the potential beneficial effects of Champagne on human health in the future," he said.