A toast to sparkling wine

Good news for all the socialites and mimosa lovers among us; there is reason to believe that a glass of bubbly might be just what the doctor ordered.  Health experts and wine makers alike have been loudly proclaiming the virtues of red wine for the heart and white wine for the lungs over the past few years.  But bubbly, with its party attitude and reputation, was largely ignored when it came to medical research.

This has changed, due to a study published last year in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that stated champagne could be a key in brain function, protecting the brain from the injuries common with Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s and stroke.  This protection action comes from the specific concentration of polyphenols; the antioxidants that help cells renew, repair and avoid illness like cancer.

Two of these polyphenols called caffeic acid and tyrosol have anti-inflammatory effects on the brain.  In order to prove this, a study was conducted where “champagne was introduced to the neuron cells of rodents”, (in other words, they got the mice tipsy), while leaving a control group beverage-free.  After this, they induced a stroke.  The group that had been given champagne showed a significant amount of protection against damage, while the brains of the control group were unable to fight off destruction.

Caffeic acid has been studied before as a possible anti-cancer drug.  It has been shown to reduce tumors in both the liver and the colon.  Caffeic acid is also an anti-inflammatory and an immunomodulator, an obnoxious word which means that it balances the immune system.  This antioxidant is found in other foods and beverages as well as champagne, including pears, dandelion and coffee, and herbs such as oregano, basil, thyme and turmeric.

Tyrosol is one of the antioxidants found in olive oil.  It is highly bioavailable, meaning the body absorbs it and can use it easily.  Researchers believe that tyrosol might be one of the reasons why the ‘Mediterranean Diet’ works for a healthy heart and beautiful skin.  It may also be one of the keys to the ‘French Paradox’; why the French can (at least according to the book French Women Don’t get Fat) eat bread, rich cream sauces, desserts and wine while keeping slim figures and experiencing less heart problems than their North American neighbours.

Of course, none of these are reasons to go overboard.  As with red and white wines, the amounts that are recommended for good health are very moderate, usually one glass daily.

According to the articles I have read, the amount of the polyphenols that your brain will get from a glass of champagne depends on the varietal, vintage and other environmental factors, though I can’t find any information that states which kinds are the best!  I am willing to bet that a glass of organic Cipes Brut from Summerhill would score rather well though.  I am willing to do further research on it, for the sake of your health!

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