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How drinking wine benefits your brain

More good news for all your amateur sommeliers out there: Science is now getting closer to understanding how drinking wine in moderation can keeps your brain healthy, possibly delaying the onset of cognitive disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer's. Researchers have long suspected that wine is good for your health: Studies have shown that it reduces your risk of heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes but the reasons for those reductions haven't always been clear. The lead researcher on this ongoing study, Dr. Esteban-Fernández of the Institute of Food Science Research in Madrid, have been investigating the neuroprotective powers of wine for years now, and recently published their findings in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition.

Dr. Esteban-Fernández and her team didn’t study wine directly, but what wine leaves behind after it passes through your body, what in scientist-speak are called “wine-derived human gut metabolites,” which are found in human waste. The scientists then added these metabolites to human cells in the initial stages of developing these “neurodegenerative” disorders. Though they found that certain metabolites do protect the dying cells, according to Dr. Esteban-Fernández, different “gut microbiota”—the bacteria that lives in our stomachs and intestines—influences which wine-derived metabolites your body creates, meaning that not everyone will develop the beneficial kind. She said that before scientists can definitively rule that wine protects your brain, they’ll need a better understanding of how—and what—diet promotes normal brain function, and creates those metabolites.

Still, there’s plenty of good news in the study, and it provides even more evidence that what people eat really does influence our overall health. “It is very important to understand that certain food compounds are responsible for… protecting against the onset of neurodegenerative diseases; no medication was involved,” said Dr. Esteban-Fernández. “I am not advocating to replace medicines by diet, but I want to raise more awareness how your diet is helping to prevent diseases or reduces the risk of getting sick.” Dr. Esteban-Fernández is quick to warn however, that while researchers are getting closer to understanding what role food and drink—including wine—plays in how our bodies functions, people need to be careful about what they believe when it comes to nutrition. “Society is nowadays full of false myths about diet, and it is the role of science…to avoid the spread of these rumors,” she noted, “as well as make people aware of the importance of diet for your health."