January 1, 2016

Champagne Study Emerges As Toast of the Internet

Champagne_475x300As the last champagne toasts welcome in 2016 they will also mark the final 360 million glasses of bubbly Americans are estimated to drink over the holidays.

Adding sparkle to some of this year’s celebrations was a study that belatedly bubbled up on social media hinting that drinking champagne might prevent memory loss disorders.

The nearly 3-year-old report from the University of Reading in the United Kingdom enjoyed new popularity on the Internet over the holidays, even as many brain health experts caution not to pop any corks just yet.

Two types of red grapes — pinot noir and pinot meunier — are used in the production of champagne, along with white chardonnay grapes. The red grapes provide relatively high levels of phenolics, an acidic chemical produced by the plants, which researchers cited for champagne’s brain boosting properties.

“The phenolic compounds found in champagne can improve spatial memory, which is responsible for recording information about one’s environment, and storing the information for future navigation,” according to a statement from the University of Reading from May 2013, a few weeks after the research was published.

The process works, according to the research, through the phenolic compounds’ interaction with the hippocampus and cortex, brain areas that regulate memory and learning. The compounds were found to favorably alter proteins linked to the storage of memories in the brain.

The brains understudy, though, belonged to lab rats not humans, which makes generalizations problematic.

“We use rodents for studies because, as fellow mammals, they share with humans many genetic and biological characteristics,” said Dr. Kate Zhong, Senior Director of Clinical Research and Development for the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. “That said, these types of studies only point the way to future research, particularly when it involves something as complex as the human brain.”

Dr. Zhong said she and the rest of the brain health community await follow-up studies. For now, she said, “champagne should be for celebrating the New Year, not as a preventative for a serious disease.”

For that, the doctor recommends the Six Pillars of Brain Health to help keep minds sharp.

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