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Red Wine Aids Meat Digestion

A new study examines benefits that occur in the stomach

Jacob Gaffney
Posted: August 21, 2008

Taking a sip of red wine with a bite of red meat is a carnivore's dream come true. And now a team of Israeli scientists say the stomach likes the pairing as much as the mouth.

In a report published in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry, the Israeli group, which includes pharmaceutical researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and gastrointestinal specialists at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, write that the stomach is better able to digest red meat in the presence of red wine. They found that red wine helps the stomach remove potentially harmful substances found in red meats, which are released during digestion, before the chemicals can do the body harm.

And, the researchers say, this same process is also likely to happen with the digestion of other foods that contain the damaging compounds, called lipid hydroperoxides (LOOH) and malonaldehydes (MDA), such as fried, processed foods and products manufactured for long-term storage. The accumulation of LOOH and MDA in the body, the study says, "correlates closely" with diseases such as atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer, particularly colon cancer.

For the study, the scientists fed 25 rats turkey thigh meat cutlets (turkey thigh meat produces high levels of LOOH and MDA when digested). With the meal, the rats were served either water or red-wine concentrate made from a locally produced blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. About 90 minutes after the meal, the scientists examined the rats' stomachs.

They found that when the thigh meat was served with red wine, the level of LOOH in the stomach was three times lower compared to the stomachs of rats that did not have wine. The amount of MDA was twice as low for rats that were served red wine.

The scientists repeated the experiment with alcohol-free red wine and achieved similar results. "Alcohol has no effect on the process," said study co-author Ron Kohen, of the Hebrew University, who said the researchers believe other chemicals in red wine, such as a group of antioxidants called polyphenols, are likely the reason behind the results.

The conclusions backs earlier research that supports red wine over other alcoholic beverages with dinner, based on larger amounts of these healthful compounds. Kohen said that the results are translatable to forms of red meat, including beef. "Wine polyphenols can protect the gastrointestinal tract and destroy malonaldehydes that originate from other sources of food product, e.g. processed or fried foods," he said.

But, he added that it is also not necessary to get polyphenols from red wine alone. "Wine contains a large variety of polyphenols in a relatively high concentration," he said. "Other beverages containing polyphenols [such as vine fruit-based juices] or a good portion of salad could replace wine," as an accompaniment to one's steak.

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