Blaufränkisch isn’t a substitute for an Avandia prescription yet, however
Researchers working in biotechnology laboratories in Vienna have found that red wine contains favorable levels of a chemical currently used to treat type 2 diabetes patients. In time, they say, red wine treatments may offer an alternative to current therapies.
The results of their research were published in the January issue ofFood & Function. The team tested the chemical composition of two white wines from Austria and 10 reds. In the most promising experiment, 100 milliliters of a 2003 Blaufränkisch contained four times the recommended daily dose of rosiglitazone, a commercially available drug used to treat type 2 diabetes, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline and marketed as Avandia.
Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disease characterized by the body’s inability to use insulin to regulate blood-sugar levels. Clinical studies on animals show that red wine may help protect against developing the disease. “However, the molecular modes of action and the different pathways involved are not yet fully understood for most of the active compounds present in red wines,” wrote lead researcher Alois Jungbauer, a biotechnologist at Vienna’s University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences.
Jungbauer and his team also found that red wines contain substantial amounts of ligands, sticky molecules associated with preventing blood clots, reducing inflammation, and optimized cholesterol digestion. These ligands contain polyunsaturated fatty acids that bind to cholesterol in the body’s tissues and transport it to the liver for excretion.
The findings may provide a basis for a one-two punch against the risk of metabolic syndrome, said Food & Function deputy editor Kathleen Too in an accompanying editorial. “They found that not only did these compounds bind to [cholesterol], but that the wine contained enough of them to rival the activity of the potent drug rosiglitazone.”
Not all wines are created equal in this regard, however. The aforementioned Blaufrankisch contained high levels of the chemicals, with 1.71 grams per liter. Second was a 2004 Zweigelt with 1.65 grams per liter. A 2005 Zweigelt contained less, which leads Jungbaer to conclude that different environmental conditions across vintages, as well as differing winemaking techniques, may greatly change the chemical profile of wine.
Nonetheless, none of the 10 reds contained less than 1 gram per liter of measurable polyphenols. The white wines, which are not exposed to grape skins for a prolonged period of time, contained below 0.10 grams per liter.
Chi-Tang Ho, a food researcher at Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences told Too that the results provide evidence to support moderate red wine consumption, but that the impact of alcohol on the body needs consideration. Those who wish to avoid alcohol may look to other sources rich in similar polyphenols, such as tea and vine fruits.
While red wine cannot be considered an alternative treatment to any of the above ailments, Jungbauer did not discount the power of alternative therapies in the future. “Grape skin extracts have great potential, and although the influence of ethanol is not yet fully understood, I am confident that it will be possible to replace some synthetic compounds by plant extracts,” said Jungbauer.