If you need a good excuse to drink your favourite glass of red, read on…

In the past, red wine has been related to a number of supposed health benefits, including lowering the risk of diabetes and helping the heart.

Now a recent study suggests that a chemical contained in red wine can help in the fight against gum disease and tooth decay.

Image by Kelsey Knight

Researchers discovered that polyphenols, a compound found within the beverage, helped protect the mouth from harmful bacteria.

However, experts warned that these findings do not give individuals the “green light” to drink more red wine.

Earlier studies have indicated that the health benefits of the polyphenols are linked to them being antioxidants which help protect the body from harmful free radicals. Additionally, recent studies have suggested that polyphenols might also boost an individual’s health by working with “good bacteria” in our stomachs.

Scientists from this study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry looked into whether wine polyphenols might also be good for oral health.

Researchers compared the effects of two polyphenols from red wine against grape seed and red wine extract supplements on bacteria known to stick to teeth and gums, causing plaque, cavities and gum disease.

They discovered the wine polyphenols and extracts all reduced the bacteria’s ability to stick to the cells, however the polyphenols, p-coumaric and caffeic acids, were more effective.

Polyphenols were even better at inhibiting the pathogenic bacteria when combined with the Streptococcus dentisani – believed to be an oral probiotic which stimulates the growth of good bacteria.

The findings, researchers said, could ultimately lead to the development of new dental treatments.

Polyphenols? Where do I find them?

Polyphenols found in red wine can also be found in a range of other foods and drinks.

Drinks Food
  • Coffee
  • Green tea
  • Black tea
  • Cider
  • Orange juice
  • Lemon juice
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Kiwis
  • Black grapes
  • Cherries
  • Beans

Source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Wine  to be consumed ‘in moderation’

Authors of the report acknowledge that their study was limited in the fact that the it was conducted outside of the human body using cells that simulated gum tissue.

They also mentioned that further research is required to determine more about what was causing the bacteria to be inhibited.

The report highlights metabolites, which form when the digestion of polyphenols begins in the mouth, could also be responsible for some of the effects found in the study.

Scientific adviser for the British Dental Association, Professor Damien Walmsley, said the study was “interesting” however it did not encourage people to start drinking more.

“In fact, the acidic nature of wine means that consuming a lot of these drinks will damage the enamel of the teeth,” he said.

“Therefore, until the benefits of this research are shown clinically, it is best to consume wine in moderation and with a meal to minimise the risk of tooth erosion.”

University of Glasgow’s professor of metabolic medicine, Naveed Sattar, said the research was “interesting” although still “very preliminary”.

“However, the findings do not support drinking more red wine to stop people getting infections,” he said.

“There is no good evidence that drinking wine per se is overall good for health – on the contrary, more and more evidence from other sources now suggests the less wine or alcohol one drinks, the lower the risks of range of disease and the lower the mortality risks.”

Original article written by Alex Therrien, Health Reporter, BBC News. View article here.