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Can Prosecco really be good for us?

December 2016

glasses of prosecco

It’s party time again and Prosecco, with its champagne type flavour and sparkly tingle, is still a top favourite among our all age groups.

Recently there have been some great reports saying Prosecco is good for us. For many, this is exciting news with the promise of great celebrations ahead! Sadly though, like the news about the health benefits of red wine, this news has to be treated with a bit of caution!!

All the good news about wines and their derivatives really come from the fact that both red and white grapes contain polyphenols.  These are plant chemicals that are also found in chocolate which accounted for the positive health stories that came out about eating chocolate.

So what are these polyphenols. Also called phenolics, this is a very complex area of chemistry. Basically polyphenols are natural plant-based chemicals found in health foods and cover a group of different categories. They are characterised by the presence of more than one phenol unit or building block per molecule and there are hundreds of different polyphenols.

For most of us who have not obtained a degree in chemistry, what we really need to know is that many of these polyphenols are powerful antioxidants and can help to neutralise damaging free radicals in our body, reduce inflammation and also slow the growth of tumours.

One of the big group of polyphenols is categorised as flavonoids. This group includes the isolavone phyloestrogens found in soy and peanuts; the flavonols found in broccoli, the flavonol polymers found in cocoa, flavan-3-ols found in green tea and the stilbenoids including resveratol found in grapes and red wine.

So many complicated names, but it is this last group that also applies to Prosecco.  Yes, Prosecco, like champagne and other wine products, does contain a level of benefit from its polyphenols. Dr Jeremy Spencer from Reading University says their research shows that drinking two glasses of champagne for instance can benefit the way blood vessels function, and has the potential to reduce the risks of suffering from cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and stroke.

But both NHS Choices and also the British Heart Foundation have said there are far better ways to obtain polyphenols including from healthy fruits and vegetables. 

The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition has published a list of the 100 richest dietary sources of polyphenols and the top 20, sadly, do not include Prosecco. Instead they recommend:

Cloves

Peppermint

Star anise

Raw cacao

Mexican oregano

Celery seed

Dark chocolate

Flaxseed meal

Black elderberry

Chestnut seeds

Dried sage

Rosemary

Spearmint

Thyme

Blueberries

Blackcurrant

Capers

Black olive

Hazel nuts

Pecans

While herbs and spices are clearly very high in polyphenols, the report also highlights the importance of colourful fruits and vegetables which have very high levels of polyphenols plus other key nutrients.

All in all, it seems there may be a little benefit in wine including Prosecco, chocolate and so forth; but generally the health experts recommend obtaining good levels of these essential nutrients from healthier (and often cheaper!) products.

 

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