In an effort to better understand how red wine works, the scientists from Johns Hopkins University fed mice a moderate dose of a compound found in red grape skins and seeds before inducing stroke-like damage. They discovered that the animals suffered less brain damage than similarly damaged mice who were not treated with the compound, which is called resveratrol.
"When we pre-treat the animals with the compound orally, then we observe that we have a significant decrease in the area of stroke damage by about 40 percent," said Sylvain Dore, the lead researcher for the study.
Dore and his research team presented their results from the study, which was funded in part by the U.S. government, at a Society for Neuroscience conference in Atlanta.
"What is unique about this study is we have somewhat identified what can be the specific mechanism," in the wine that is good for health, Dore said. "Here we are building cell resistance against free radical damage." The study showed that resveratrol increases levels of an enzyme in the brain, heme oxygenase, that was already known to shield nerve cells from damage.
Dore said the beneficial effects associated with drinking a moderate amount of red wine could be explained by the fact the wine turns on the heme oxygenase anti-oxidant system.
"Red wine has been suggested for the heart. Here what we show is its special effect in stroke and pre-treatment," Dore said. "It suggests that prophylactic use of wine could work." The fermentation process in winemaking boosts the
concentration of resveratrol, Dore said. But said more studies are needed to translate the findings from mice into humans.
The amount of wine that must be consumed in order to reap the benefits of the compound will vary depending on a person's weight and the concentration of resveratrol in the wine. But, Dore said, it will likely work out to about two
glasses a day.
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