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B.C. chemists find yet more potential in red wine

(British Columbia Wine Institute photo)

It’s no secret that a certain group of chemical compounds in a given glass of red wine is believed to have health benefits — but researchers in B.C.’s Okanagan Valley now say that group is bigger than expected.

A team of chemists from the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus and the University of Adelaide’s school of agriculture, food and wine, on what they call a “fishing” expedition to better chart red wine’s molecular profile, has found 23 previously-undetected molecules in the process.

The molecules, they said, are stilbenoid compounds — 18 of which have previously been found in red wine, and several of which are believed to help prevent aging-related ailments in people.

Stilbenoids are secondary plant metabolites, known to protect various plant species, including grape vines, from bacterial and fungal infections.

However, the team — which includes UBC grad student Ryan Moss and UBC associate professor Cedric Saucier, head of the Kelowna-based campus’ lab for enology (the study of wine) — said it was surprised to find not just the 18 previously known stilbenoids, but 41 in all.

The team had scanned red wine extracts using an ultra-high-performance liquid chromatograph, coupled to a hybrid quadrupole time-of-flight mass analyzer.

“The first thing we did was concentrate the wine extract,” Moss said in a UBC release Monday. “We actually separated the compounds so we could examine each molecule individually and create a fingerprint of each molecule.”

The discovery could lead to medical breakthroughs and perhaps more conclusive benefits of drinking wine in moderation, Saucier said in the same release.

The 23 newly-discovered molecules, the team said, are related to resveratrol, a natural wine chemical that’s found in the skin of red grapes and is known to have potential effects of preventing aging-related human diseases.

“These new molecules are likely to have very interesting biological properties and may contribute to the benefits from drinking red wine,” Saucier said. “Who knows where this could lead? Perhaps new drugs and medicine for the future?”

Each of the new stilbenoids must now be analyzed and assessed, he said, noting the team’s finding is only the beginning and the novel molecules will lead to many more years of research.

“Knowledge gained from these experiments contributes to a more complete understanding of the origin of the beneficial properties of red wine,” the team said in its paper, which appears in the Aug. 30 issue of the journal Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry. — Network

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