By Savanna Ledford
The Power of Wine
Research has shown that wine, the drink of choice for some when unwinding from a mentally exhausting day, may have a larger role for our health. What would you think if I told you that your glass of wine may help slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and may prevent you from developing it? AD, the most common type of dementia, is a neurodegenerative disorder resulting in cognitive decline due to the presence of amyloid β (Aβ) plaques and neurofibrillary tangles2. In addition to the presence of these two elements, another hallmark of this disease is the prolonged inflammatory response2. Due to the disruption in the anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory signaling equilibrium in individuals with AD, neuroinflammation has a fundamental role in the progression of AD2. The answer to slowing down the progression of AD as well as preventing AD onset may be in your glass of wine! This is because wine is a unique alcoholic beverage in that it contains anti-inflammatory properties.
What’s the evidence?
The consumption of light-to-moderate amounts of wine may help one benefit from the anti-inflammatory effects of wine. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, light-to-moderate amounts of wine for men is up to four drinks a day and for women three drinks a day without exceeding 14 drinks a week for men and seven drinks a week for women3. Using this classification, a cohort study conducted by Luchsinger et al. reported that adults who are 65 and older who consumed up to three servings of wine daily had a lower risk of developing AD compared to those who consumed beer or liquor4. Another study, the Rotterdam study, showed that those who are 55 and older and consumed one to three drinks of wine had a lower risk of developing the neurodegenerative disorder than those who did not consume wine5. This relationship was also seen in the study conducted by Anttila et al. in that those who drank a light-to-moderate amount of wine had a lower lifetime risk for AD than those who did not drink6. Interestingly in Bordeaux, France a prospective study saw that those who consumed three to four glasses of wine per day had a lower risk of developing AD than those who consumed a smaller amount of wine5. Even though the idea that wine may be used for health benefits seems novel, it’s actually been used this way for thousands of years.
There is a substantial amount of historical evidence of wine being used for medicinal purposes. For example, Mesopotamians mixed wine with honey to help treat a cough, whereas Egyptians used it as a solvent to help treat injuries3. The famous Greek physician Hippocrates believed that wine is a key nutrient and should be incorporated into a healthy diet because it has sedative and antiseptic properties3. Today, it is known to be the drink of choice for those who follow the Mediterranean diet in order to maintain both brain and heart health. But how does wine get its anti-inflammatory properties?
Compounds in Wine that Promote its Anti-inflammatory Effect
There are many amazing compounds that give wine its unique anti-inflammatory properties and it all starts with how wine is made. Wine requires the fermentation of fruit species Vitis vinifera (grapes) by yeast3. The fermentation process results in wine with varying concentrations of phenolic compounds, polysaccharides, acids, volatile compounds, alcohol, and water. Under the classification of phenolic compounds are polyphenols. Polyphenols have been characterized as antioxidant compounds. Examples of polyphenols seen in wine that produce the antioxidant activity are catechin, epicatechin, quercetin, and resveratrol (RSV)3. Catechin and epicatechin have a role in the inhibition of nuclear factor kappa-B (NF-κB) and inflammatory cytokines. Quercetin has a role in the reduction of toll-like receptor expression which can produce anti-inflammatory effects3. There are many compounds in wine that have been shown to contribute to producing an anti-inflammatory effect, but the main compound is RSV.
RSV is an incredible polyphenolic compound that has been linked to repressing inflammatory cytokines and modulating the inflammatory response by inhibiting inflammatory enzymes3. RSV has also been studied in AD research, due to its direct role in the inflammatory response. The research showed that RSV reduces Aβ production7 and promotes Aβ degradation8. Also, RSV can reduce Aβ production of reactive oxygen species9. Therefore, due to its role in neuroinflammation, RSV may be a promising compound for the prevention of AD and possibly other diseases.
Other Impacts of RSV on the Brain
Along with the positive implications of RSV on AD, this compound may also protect against recurrent strokes. Using a rat model, Clark et al. reported that following a minor stroke, administration of RSV reduces the extent of brain damage associated with the stroke, reduces inflammation, prevents edema, and protects the blood-brain-barrier when another stroke occurs10. Along with the potential in helping those who suffered from stroke, RSV may help with the negative consequences of an aging brain.
By the time we turn 20, the gray matter in our brain starts to lose volume11. The slow reduction in gray matter volume may increase forgetfulness and lack of attentiveness11. Luckily, RSV may help with both forgetfulness and lack of attentiveness. RSV has been shown to stimulate neurogenesis (growth and development of neurons) in the hippocampus in animal models11. The hippocampus is considered the memory center of the brain, so an increase in neurogenesis in the hippocampus suggests improved memory11.To explore memory function in an animal model, Clark et al. placed rats in a water maze where the rats had to find a platform using spatial clues. After the rats were given RSV treatment, the time it took to find the platform decreased and it was concluded that the rats demonstrated increased memory function and spatial learning following RSV treatment11.
In addition to potential protective effects against stroke and memory loss, moderate consumption (three to four glasses) of wine may provide benefits in other ways such as3:
- Improved blood levels of omega-3
- Improved glucose metabolism
- Decreased cardio metabolic risk
- Reduced risk of blood clots
- Reduced risk in the development of depression
The consumption of wine may provide some health benefits but, overconsumption of alcohol, regardless of source, can cause detrimental health effects. AD is a complex neurodegenerative disease that scientists are still researching in order to enhance their understanding of AD onset and progression. There has not been an established cure or preventative method related to AD. Therefore, the studies discussed are not showing that wine is a definitive source that prevents AD onset and reduces the speed in AD progression. The purpose of the studies was to explore the dynamic relationship between RSV and its role in the inflammatory response seen in AD. Since this research is still new, scientists need to explore the relationship between wine consumption and AD in more depth.
With an expected rise in AD cases, it’s important to keep our body and mind healthy. A body of evidence has shown that one potential way to prevent AD may be by consuming RSV. The great news is that red wine is the most concentrated source of RSV in the human diet13. Further research is needed to better understand the relationship between wine consumption and AD. With the history and current evidence supporting the idea that the consumption of wine may have neurological health benefits my question to you is, what are you drinking tonight?
- Lerche, O. (2017). “Is dementia cure one step closer? How this alcoholic drink can protect against Alzheimer’s. Daily Express. https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/800091/red-wine-protect-against-dementia-gut-alzheimers-disease-symptoms
- Kinney, J. W., Bemiller, S. M., Murtishaw, A. S., Leisgang, A. M., Salazar, A. M., & Lamb, B. T. (2018). Inflammation as a central mechanism in Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s & dementia (New York, N. Y.), 4, 575–590. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trci.2018.06.014
- Reale M, Costantini E, Jagarlapoodi S, Khan H, Belwal T, Cichelli A. Relationship of Wine Consumption with Alzheimer’s Disease. Nutrients. 2020 Jan 13;12(1):206. doi: 10.3390/nu12010206. PMID: 31941117; PMCID: PMC7019227.
- Luchsinger,J., Tang, M., Siddiqui, M., Shea, S., Mayeux, R. (2004). Alcohol Intake and Risk of Dementia. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1532-5415.2004.52159.x
- Letenneur L. Risk of dementia and alcohol and wine consumption: a review of recent results. Biol Res. 2004;37(2):189-93. doi: 10.4067/s0716-97602004000200003. PMID: 15455646.
- Anttila, T.; Helkala, E.L.; Viitanen, M.; Kåreholt, I.; Fratiglioni, L.; Winblad, B.; Soininen, H.; Tuomilehto, J.; Nissinen, A.; Kivipelto, M. Alcohol drinking in middle age and subsequent risk of mild cognitive impairment and dementia in old age: A prospective population based study. Br. Med. J. 2004, 329, 539.
- Rivière C, Richard T, Quentin L, Krisa S, Mérillon JM, Monti JP. Inhibitory activity of stilbenes on Alzheimer’s beta-amyloid fibrils in vitro. Bioorg Med Chem. 2007 Jan 15;15(2):1160-7. doi: 10.1016/j.bmc.2006.09.069. Epub 2006 Oct 1. PMID: 17049256.
- Zhou, X., Chen, M., Zeng, X. et al. Resveratrol regulates mitochondrial reactive oxygen species homeostasis through Sirt3 signaling pathway in human vascular endothelial cells. Cell Death Dis 5, e1576 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/cddis.2014.530
- Soares, Daniele; Andreazza, Ana; Salvador, Mirian. Sequestering Ability of Butylated Hydroxytoluene, Propyl Gallate, Resveratrol, and Vitamins C and E against ABTS, DPPH, and Hydroxyl Free Radicals in Chemical and Biological Systems. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2003, 51, 4, 1077-1080.
- Clark D, Tuor UI, Thompson R, Institoris A, Kulynych A, Zhang X, Kinniburgh DW, Bari F, Busija DW, Barber PA. Protection against recurrent stroke with resveratrol: endothelial protection. PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e47792. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0047792. Epub 2012 Oct 17. PMID: 23082218; PMCID: PMC3474795.
- Kodali, M., Parihar, V. K., Hattiangady, B., Mishra, V., Shuai, B., & Shetty, A. K. (2015). Resveratrol prevents age-related memory and mood dysfunction with increased hippocampal neurogenesis and microvasculature, and reduced glial activation. Scientific reports, 5, 8075. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep08075
- Harada, C. N., Natelson Love, M. C., & Triebel, K. L. (2013). Normal cognitive aging. Clinics in geriatric medicine, 29(4), 737–752. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cger.2013.07.002
- Silva P, Sureda A, Tur JA, Andreoletti P, Cherkaoui-Malki M, Latruffe N. How efficient is resveratrol as an antioxidant of the Mediterranean diet, towards alterations during the aging process? Free Radic Res. 2019;53(sup1):1101-1112. doi: 10.1080/10715762.2019.1614176. Epub 2019 Oct 7. PMID: 31039629.