The negative effects of alcohol are well known, with too much drinking known to cause a range of health problems. Not all alcoholic beverages can be painted with the same brush, however, with wine offering a number of health benefits when enjoyed in moderation. Drinking red wine is said to improve your memory, strengthen your immune system, and improve your bones, with some researchers also recognising both red and white wine for their anti-aging and anti-cancer properties. While this is all good for wine drinkers, the best news of all is that wine makers may soon be able to enhance the beneficial effects of their products with a little help from science.
While there's still no clear evidence that red wine is better than other forms of alcohol when it comes to overall heart health, moderate red wine consumption has been found to reduce blood clots and blood vessel inflammation, both of which have been linked to cognitive decline and heart disease. Red wine has also been recognised for its anti-inflammatory properties, with the antioxidants in red and white wine also helpful in preventing cancer according to some researchers.
In a recent study by the University of Barcelona, it was found that "white wine phenols have a comparable or higher antioxidant capacity than red wine phenols," busting the myth that only red wine can be healthy. White wine also has similar cardio-protective effects as red wine, helping prevent heart attacks and other major health problems associated with the heart, kidneys, and blood vessels. According to the study, wine could be made even healthier if wine makers were aware of the influence that different technological processes had on phenolic composition.
While the positive links between red wine and a healthy heart have been known for a while now, surprisingly, red wine also has a positive effect on memory. Resveratrol, a compound largely found in the skin of red grapes, has been found to improve connections in specific brain areas associated with memory. While some studies have taken this further by recognising resveratrol for its anti-aging and anti-cancer properties, these claims are controversial.
In a recent wine-based breakthrough, scientists have even discovered a way to eliminate hangovers by changing the way yeast reproduces. University of Illinois researchers have used a “genome knife” to alter the yeast, with the hopes of reducing toxic by-products and reducing hangovers. According to Energy Biosciences Institute principal investigator Yong-Su Jin, “Fermented foods — such as beer, wine, and bread — are made with polyploid strains of yeast, which means they contain multiple copies of genes in the genome... Until now, it’s been very difficult to do genetic engineering in polyploid strains because if you altered a gene in one copy of the genome, an unaltered copy would correct the one that had been changed.”
According to Jin, this study may also allow wine makers to enhance the nutritional and medicinal value of the beverage through engineered yeast. “Wine, for instance, contains the healthful component resveratrol,” he explained, adding “With engineered yeast, we could increase the amount of resveratrol in a variety of wine by 10 times or more. But we could also add metabolic pathways to introduce bioactive compounds from other foods, such as ginseng, into the wine yeast... Or we could put resveratrol-producing pathways into yeast strains used for beer, kefir, cheese, kimchee, or pickles — any food that uses yeast fermentation in its production.”