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Drinking to your health

Antioxidants from wine grapes, red wine and grape juice have been known to provide health benefits, including cardio-protective, anti-aging and anti-tumor effects.

Now, a team of Cal State L.A. researchers reveals that the mysterious benefits of wine are more complicated. The study indicates that trans-resveratrol, a molecule found in grapes and red wine, can and does react with singlet oxygen and make other interesting biomolecules.

In fact, one of the major products is a molecule which, upon heating, is transformed into a completely different compound found in root bark of a certain tree (morus alba) used in traditional Chinese medicine.

“This compound is called Moracin M,” said CSULA’s Professor of Chemistry Matthias Selke. “This new chemistry is a very convenient way of making Moracin M in the laboratory. At the same time, we note that the chemistry of antioxidants goes beyond the simplistic assumption that all they do is remove free radicals.”

Selke and CSULA alumnus Jeff Celaje led the study, which was recently published by the American Chemical Society journal, Organic Letters (vol. 13, no. 18). The study, funded by the National Institute of Health, also concluded that resveratrol is much less efficient in removing singlet oxygen compared to other antioxidants, such as Vitamin E and beta-carotene.

Benefits of trans-resveratrol

There has been a huge amount of research into what the trans-resveratrol molecule actually does. The benefits are often attributed to resveratrol’s ability of removing so-called reactive oxygen species (ROS), which damage all kinds of biomolecules in living organisms.

According to Celaje, “Resveratrol is the substance in red wine that is responsible for the so-called ‘French paradox’ (the apparently contradictory observations that the French have a lower incidence of coronary heart disease despite having a diet that is higher in saturated fats).”

He added, “Resveratrol continues to be the focus of intense research because of its many health benefits.”

So-called ROS are often and somewhat incorrectly equated with free radicals resulting in some confusion.

“Actually, free radicals are one type of ROS,” said Selke, “but there are other reactive oxygen species as well. The ROS we looked at is singlet oxygen, generated from light-absorbing molecules, light and oxygen. It is well known that singlet oxygen destroys DNA and some amino acids.”

by S. C.
13 october 2011, Food & Fun > Health