Winning the rat race: Rodents drink Champagne for better brain health


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Picture Credit: 007/Flickr
Picture Credit: 007/Flickr
Kings and royalty swear by it as an expensive luxury and now rats do too, as scientists suggest Champagne may combat memory loss linked to aging and brain disorders like dementia in elderly rodents.

University of Reading scientists served rats Champagne (1.78ml/kg by weight; 12.5% ABV) daily for six weeks – alongside placebo and alcohol groups – and note improved spatial working memory in aged rodents through changes in in hippocampal signaling and protein expression.

Giulia Corona et al. say that phenolic compounds found in champagne can improve the animals’ spatial memory, by modulating signals from the hippocampus and cortex that control memory and learning, and hope to translate what they claim are ground-breaking findings to humans soon.

Although similar benefits have been noted for red wine through the action of flavanols, co-author Prof. Jeremy Spencer, from the Department of Food & Nutritional Sciences, at the University of Reading, says the team’s research shows that Champagne, which lacks flavonoids but is rich in hydroxycinnamates and phenolic acids, is also capable of influencing brain function.

Rats live Champagne lifestyle

This study suggests Champagne does so through the action of smaller phenolic compounds – gallic acid, protocatechuic acid, tyrosol, caftaric acid, caffeic acid – previously thought to lack biological activity.

Rats were fed Champagne (1.78ml/kg by weight; 12.5% ABV) for six weeks, and the scientists noted an improvement in spatial working memory in aged rodents through changes in in hippocampal signaling and protein expression.

“Changes in spatial working memory induced by the Champagne supplementation are linked to the effects of the absorbed phenolics on cytoskeletal proteins, neurotrophin expression, and the effects of alcohol on the regulation of apoptotic events in the hippocampus and cortex,”​ Corona et al. write.

Expressing a wish to corroborate the rodent results with human findings, co-author David Vauzour, says: “This has been achieved successfully with other polyphenol-rich foods, such as blueberry and cocoa, and we predict similar outcomes for moderate Champagne intake on cognition for humans.”

Beneficial brain effects

The team say the phenolic compounds increase the number of proteins linked to effective storage of memories; the proteins are depleted with age, which makes memory storage less efficient.

But Champagne slows these losses down, Corona et al. claim, and may therefore help prevent cognitive losses that occur during typical and atypical brain ageing.

The phenolic compounds responsible for Champagne’s beneficial brain effects are found in the two red grape varietals used in Champagne – Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.

Prof. Spencer says that the study results suggest people could benefit from a low Champagne intake, one to two glasses a week.

A suggestion that will please the likes of Moët & Chandon, Pol Roger and Pernod Ricard brand Perrier-Jouët.

Title: ​‘Phenolic acid intake, delivered via moderate Champagne wine consumption, improves spatial working memory via the modulation of hippocampal and cortical protein expression/activation’

Authors: ​Corona, G., Vauzour, D., Hercelin, J., Williams, C.M, Spencer, J.P.E.

Source: Antioxidants & Redox Signalling​, published online, April 3 2013, doi:10.1089/ars.2012.5142

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