All Champagne is sparkling white wine, but not all sparkling white wine is Champagne. According to European law, to be labeled a true Champagne, the bubbly must be bottled within 100 miles of the city of Champagne, France and undergo the specific two-step fermentation process known as Méthode Champenoise — Champagne Method.
Champagne is usually made from a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes and then undergoes a secondary fermentation process in the bottle, which gives the wine its characteristic bubbles.
In addition to being associated with special celebrations and royalty, research shows moderate Champagne consumption may help reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
How Champagne Boosts Your Brain
A mouse study conducted at the University of Reading, in England, found that consuming three glasses of Champagne a week improved spatial memory and reduced the risk of dementia.1 Spatial memory is the part of the brain that records information about the environment and stores it for future needs.
The researchers, who published the study in the journal Antioxidants and Redox Signaling, supplemented aging rodents with a moderate amount of Champagne (1.78 ml/kg of bodyweight) for six weeks, versus a control group.
The rodents who received the wine of kings showed memory improvement that correlated to the expression of proteins in the hippocampus and cortex. These proteins involved signaling, neuroplasticity, apoptosis (programmed cell death of old or damaged neurons) and cell cycle regulation.2
The researchers attributed this benefit to the phenolic compounds from the red grapes used in producing the drink. (As you probably know, resveratrol and other antioxidants in red wine have long been shown to improve brain health.)
The data suggests that, in addition to flavonoids present in Champagne, specific compounds responsible for the protein modulation include:
- Gallic acid: An antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytochemical that’s been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia3 and damage from ischemic stroke.4
- Protocatechuic acid: Found in white grapes, this metabolite of anthocyanin has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antihyperglycemic properties.5
- Tyrosol: This antioxidant found in white wine can reduce the damage caused by ischemia and reperfusion injury6 (when oxygen-rich blood rushes to the site previously starved of blood by a stroke, causing damage).
- Caftaric acid: A non-flavonoid phenolic compound in white grapes that’s thought to give Champagne its lovely golden color.
- Caffeic acid: Similar to Caftaric acid, this compound is necessary for the biosynthesis of lignans, phenolics with antioxidant and estrogenic activity.
Many of these compounds have also shown cardioprotective properties, most likely due to their ability to soothe inflammation and keep blood vessels open so blood can flow freely.
Fermentation is Your Friend
Another reason Champagne may be so good for us is the secondary fermentation process. Science shows eating and drinking naturally fermented food and drink has great health benefits.7
Fermentation enhances nutritional content of the raw ingredients and provides food for the good bacteria in your gut, which are essential to overall good health. For more information on the gut-brain connection, see Issue #205.
Adding Champagne to Your Diet
Beware: nowadays the word “Champagne” is used to describe any sparkling white wine, no matter where it’s produced.
Some sparkling white wines use different grapes and fermentation methods than true Champagne. Some inexpensive kinds simply inject carbon dioxide into the finished product instead of producing the bubbles naturally by fermentation.
This is similar to the difference between consuming healthy fermented vinegar or fermented pickles, and buying the ultra-pasteurized supermarket versions that are devoid of nutrients.
The studies cited use true Champagne made with traditional fermentation methods, not any old sparkling wine. To be sure of achieving similar results, you have to choose accordingly.
Using any kind of alcohol as a supplement is always a double-edged sword. And as you know, I don’t advocate daily alcohol consumption. The human equivalent of the daily shot of bubbly given to the mice works out to 129 ml for someone weighing 160 pounds, if I have the math right. That’s a little less than a typical five-ounce (148 ml) glass of wine per day. That is moderate drinking, by any standard.
And for sure, indulging in the occasional glass of Champagne on New Year’s Eve or at a wedding doesn’t pose a health problem.
Go ahead and raise a glass to brain health.
- How Drinking Champagne May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s.
- Phenolic Acid Intake, Delivered Via Moderate Champagne Wine Consumption, Improves Spatial Working Memory Via the Modulation of Hippocampal and Cortical Protein Expression/Activation.
- Gallic acid is the major component of grape seed extract that inhibits amyloid fibril formation.
- The effects of gallic acid on pain and memory following transient global ischemia/reperfusion in Wistar rats.
- Pharmacological Properties of Protocatechuic Acid and Its Potential Roles as Complementary Medicine.
- Tyrosol Attenuates Ischemia–Reperfusion-Induced Kidney Injury via Inhibition of Inducible Nitric Oxide Synthase.
- Fermented Foods: Patented Approaches and Formulations for Nutritional Supplementation and Health Promotion.