Health and nutrition research roundup: red wine cuts memory loss, chocolate addiction

A round-up of health and nutrition research news from around the world.

Red wine cuts memory loss…

Scientists at Texas A&M have added reduced memory loss to the benefits of the antioxidant resveratrol, which is found in the skin of red grapes, some berries and peanuts.

It is already celebrated for its alleged ability to help prevent heart disease and stave off ageing.

Professor Ashok K Shetty and his team of researchers have found the antioxidant has a positive effect on the hippocampus, part of the brain that is vital to memory, learning and mood.

In the study, elderly rats treated with resveratrol enjoyed far better blood flow, memory and other brain growth than those not given the antioxidant.

“The results of the study are striking, Professor Shetty says. “They indicate that for the control rats who did not receive resveratrol, spatial learning ability is largely maintained but ability to make new spatial memories significantly declines between 22 and 25 months. 

“By contrast, both spatial learning and memory improved in the resveratrol-treated rats.”

The rats given resveratrol experienced double the neurogenesis (the growth and development of neurons) of the control rats, much better microvasculature, and decreased inflammation of the hippocampus.

 “The study provides novel evidence that resveratrol treatment in late middle age can help improve memory and mood function in old age,” Professor Shetty says.

Scientific Reports

…and burns body fat

A new study also suggests wine can help burn fat.

The study, which was conducted by researchers from three US universities, has found drinking wine or red grape juice in moderation is useful in helping obese people manage their health, especially metabolic disorders such as fatty liver.

The scientists exposed lab-grown human liver and fat cells to extracts of four natural chemicals found in Muscadine grapes, a common variety of dark-red grapes.

The growth of the fat cells significantly slowed down, while the rate at which new cells appeared also decreased. On top of that, the metabolism of fatty acids in liver cells was boosted.

The scientists attribute the results to one chemical in particular: ellagic acid, a natural antioxidant that is found in a number of fruits and vegetables.

However, one of the study’s authors, Neil Shay, a biochemist and molecular biologist at the University of Oregon, warns that the wine or juice has to be consumed in moderation, and that people should not use it as a weight-loss mechanism. 

“We didn’t find, and we didn’t expect to, that these compounds would improve body weight,” he says.

“But by boosting the burning of fat, especially in the liver, they may improve liver function in overweight people. If we could develop a dietary strategy for reducing the harmful accumulation of fat in the liver, using common foods like grapes would be good news.”

The results of the study supported previous research by Mr Shay into the effects of Pinot Noir grapes on overweight mice.

The mice that were given grape extracts developed less fat in their livers and had lower blood sugar.

Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry

Chocolate the strongest addiction

A new study has revealed that almost half of adults have lied to their partner about how much chocolate they really eat on a day-to-day basis.

The research by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) shows that chocolate is the hardest thing to give up, proving even harder than alcohol, sex and caffeine. 

In the survey, carried out on 3000 people, a third admitted to secretly eating chocolate on their way home from work, and almost half admitted to hiding the sweet wrappers from their partners.

The BHF ran the study in a bid to try to convince people to give up eating the sweet snack throughout March and raise money for heart research.

BHF spokeswoman Tracy Parker says, “It’s amazing the lengths we’ll go to so that we can hide just how much we love our favourite sweet treat. 

“We’re calling on chocolate lovers everywhere to give up chocolate and get their friends and family to sponsor them to take on the challenge. 

“By giving it a go, you could not only kick-start a healthier new lifestyle but help us keep more hearts beating with our life-saving research.”