Month: March 2018

Analysis of high cited papers: Part II – Viticulture

By Paula Silva

For the release of my blog, at January 22, I wrote an article about high cited papers in the Food Science and Technology and Nutrition Dietetics research areas. Now, I decided to analyse what researchers studying viticulture are publishing. I performed a search, in Web of Science Core Collection, using “viticulture” as topic word. Then, I ordered the papers according with the number of citations in the period between January 2015 and February 2018.

The analysis of the top ten list of the most cited papers (see below), show that researchers are concern about water deficit and its effect in viticulture and wine quality. The most cited paper (with 91 citations) is titled “The immediate effectiveness of barley straw mulch in reducing soil erodibility and surface runoff generation in Mediterranean vineyards”. In the paper, the authors show their concern about soil and water loss in viticulture. They carried out an experiment to test the effect of barley straw mulching on soil erosion and surface runoff on vineyards in Eastern Spain, where the soil and water losses are non-sustainable.

They performed rainfall simulation tests at 55 mm h-1 over 1 h on forty paired plots of 0.24m2: twenty bare and twenty straw covered. Straw cover varied from 48 to 90% with a median value of 59% as a result of the application of 75 g of straw per m2. The authors concluded that straw mulch is very effective in reducing soil erodibility and surface runoff, and this benefit was achieved immediately after the application of the straw.

In second place of the list is a review, which is about soil water erosion. In “Soil water erosion on Mediterranean vineyards: A review” authors emphasize the fact of vineyards, among agricultural uses, are the form that causes one of the highest soil losses. Considering that this is one of the most important economic activity, the authors think that a special attention should be addressed to this issue. Reviewing the literature, they found to be very difficult compare erosion rates found in different studies because of variability of the conditions under which those were carried out. Furthermore, very few studies fulfil the requirements of the authors’ analysis. This literature review, however, allow to conclude that:

  • when rainfall simulation method is used, erosion rate increases as slope becomes steeper;
  • runoff simulation method, show that erosion rates usually increases as the organic content decreases. The use of this method also showed a positive relationship between soil loss and maximum rainfall intensity;
  • regardless the method used, erosion rates are positively correlated with mean rainfall intensity;
  • slope plays an important role by affecting erosion rates and soil loss for rainfall simulation and runoff methods, respectively;
  • organic content has a negative effect on erosion rate only for runoff simulation method.

The authors concluded that is necessary a continuous and prolonged monitoring of soil erosion processes, which should rely on standardized procedures to allow the comparison of data derived from different study areas.

The other paper about effects of water deficit in viticulture is in the fifth position and is also a review. In this paper, Medrano et al. (2015), approached the issue from the solution point of view, namely by reviewing the advances in grapevine water use efficiency related to changes in agronomical practices and genetic improvements. Regarding the first ones, authors explore the increase in green water use by increasing soil water storage capacity, reducing direct soil water loss, or limiting early transpiration losses. According with this review, the soils coverage with crops in semi-arid areas, like the one mention above, show a favourable effect. However, authors aware that a careful management is needed to avoid excessive water consumption by the cover crop. In this paper titled “Improving water use efficiency of vineyards in semi-arid regions. A review” the influence of cultivar in water use efficiency (WUE) is analyzed. Despite the large variability of WUE found among cultivars and within a single variety at the leaf and whole plant level, Medrano et al. (2015) suggest that selection of the most appropriate cultivar depending on the environmental crop conditions can be a good approach

The impact of climate change on viticulture and wine quality” is the name of other review that is in this top ten list. The paper explores the water deficits effects, due to temperature increase, in wine quality in particular with respect to aroma compounds. As the frequency of extreme climatic events (hail, flooding) are increasing, the authors also addressed this issue, they found that the effects in wine quality depend on the region. The authors concluded that winemakers must adopt strategies to continue to produce high-quality wines and to preserve their typicity according to their origin in a changing climate. The choice of plant material is a valuable resource to implement these strategies.

The last paper in the list is an original research article titled “Monitoring daily evapotranspiration over two California vineyards using Landsat 8 in a multi-sensor data fusion approach”. In this experiment the authors evaluate the utility of a multi-scale system for monitoring evapotranspiration (ET) as applied over two vineyard sites near Lodi, California during the 2013 growing season, leading into the drought in early 2014. The results suggest that multi-sensor remote sensing observations provide a unique means for monitoring crop water use and soil moisture status at field-scales over extended growing regions and may have value in supporting operational water management decisions in vineyards and other high value crops.

After reading these papers I become more conscious about the effects of water deficit in viticulture and more informed about what is being done to minimize the problem. I recommend the reading of these papers to everyone working in viticulture and I challenge researchers to post in Science & Wine blog more information about this.

  1. The immediate effectiveness of barley straw mulch in reducing soil erodibility and surface runoff generation in Mediterranean vineyards.
  2. Soil water erosion on Mediterranean vineyards: A review.
  3. A population genomics insight into the Mediterranean origins of wine yeast domestication.
  4. Intercomparison of UAV, aircraft and satellite remote sensing platforms for precision viticulture.
  5. Improving water use efficiency of vineyards in semi-arid regions. A review.
  6. Combine use of selected Schizosaccharomyces pombe and Lachancea thermotolerans yeast strains as an alternative to the traditional malolactic fermentation in red wine production.
  7. The impact of climate change on viticulture and wine quality.
  8. Functional properties of grape and wine polyphenols.
  9. Distinctive expansion of gene families associated with plant cell wall degradation, secondary metabolism, and nutrient uptake in the genomes of grapevine trunk pathogens.
  10. Monitoring daily evapotranspiration over two California vineyards using Landsat 8 in a multi-sensor data fusion approach.
Posted by in Viticulture

A plan to understand smoke-taint

By Wesley Zandberg and Matthew Noestheden

2017 was a challenging year for many grape growing and wine producing regions, with severe forest fires impacting crops on five continents. While these devastating natural disasters can cause physical damage to vines and infrastructure, grape and wine producers are increasingly concerned with the impact that the smoke from such fires can have – the vinification of grapes exposed to forest fire smoke  can often lead to wine that possesses a suite of negative aromas and flavors (e.g., ‘ashy’, ‘burnt meat’, ‘band-aid’), as well as a noticeable lack of varietal character. Collectively these wine defects are termed smoke-taint. Since climate change forecasts tell us that the severity and frequency of forest fires will increase in many grape growing regions, smoke-taint is a not only a present, but also a future concern for wine quality. The compounds (i.e., volatile phenolic compounds [VPCs]) thought to be at least partly responsible for smoke-taint are well-known, having been extensively studied in foods and beverages. Problematically, however, these taint-causing VPCs are typically stored within smoke-exposed grapes as a range of glycosidically-bound analogues. Such glycosides possess no organoleptic properties per se. Nevertheless, it is critical to know their concentrations since these glycosidically-bound VPCs can be cleaved by microbial enzymes during fermentation, releasing VPCs that we can taste and smell, yielding smoke-tainted wines from grapes with no perceptible taint characteristics prior to fermentation. Oral microbiota has also been shown to remove the glycoside from VPC-glycosides surviving fermentation, leading to the retro-nasal perception of the liberated VPCs (and thus, also contributing to the perceived smoke-taint). VPC-glycosides are not readily detectible by commonly used analytical techniques such as gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, nor are suitable analytical standards commercially-available. This makes the accurate analysis of their concentrations very challenging. Currently, no analytical tools/methods exist that are capable of accurately providing the potential risk of producing smoke-tainted wines when a winery is faced with using smoke-exposed berries. Rather, the gold-standard approach is to make a small amount of wine from grapes deemed to be at-risk and use sensory analysis to identify smoke taint. This approach, while effective, is highly subjective due to population variance in taste and aroma perception. Moreover, this is a nearly impossible strategy for a vineyard to adopt in the context of a busy harvest schedule, nor does it facilitate the rational development and testing of amelioration strategies. Methods do exist to quantitate VPCs and their sugar-bound forms in grapes, but this approach has been shown to only be 50-80% predictive of perceptible smoke-taint in wine. This poor correlation is not altogether surprising since, while the levels of VPCs and their glycosides in smoke-exposed grapes are indeed higher than in unexposed fruit, several confounding variables limit their usefulness. For example, the wine industry spends huge sums of money on oak barrels, which deliberately introduce into the aging wine some of the same VPCs linked to smoke-taint (e.g., guaiacol and syringol). Moreover, several VPCs are present in grapes naturally, with Shiraz, for example, known to have higher concentrations of guaiacol than other varietals. Finally, like the variation in polyphenolic composition as a function of geography, temperature, varietal, etc., the baseline concentrations of VPCs in grapes not exposed to forest fire smoke shows significant variation. Such variability precludes a blanket approach to predicting smoke-taint (i.e., it is not practical to set a threshold concentration for key VPCs that can be applied globally).

We recently embarked on a two-pronged approach towards developing accurate, predictive smoke-taint tests that do not employ time-consuming fermentations nor subjective sensory tests. First, we have rigorously evaluated all published (and publicly-available) methods for VPC quantification. Consequently, we developed an accurate method that employs a simple, validated acid hydrolysis procedure in order to quantify the total VPC load in berries and wine, inclusive of those stored within grapes as non-volatile glycosides. Secondly, we conducted a set of field studies in which Cabernet Franc grapes (two weeks after veraison) were exposed to smoke from local fuel sources (Ponderosa pine bark, needles, twigs and forest duff) under controlled conditions. The VPC profiles in these berries and matched controls from the same vineyard were then evaluated through the ripening process and primary fermentation. Analysis of these samples revealed that VPCs were rapidly stored within grapes and were subsequently converted to acid-label glycosides within 24 hours, with both forms remaining stable until commercial maturity. In addition, the levels of free VPCs significantly increased in the wines produced from the smoke-exposed berries relative to the controls. However, we also observed a significant increase in the concentrations of acid-labile VPCs in wines produced from both groups of grapes—in direct contrast with the current literature that assumes VPCs in smoke-tainted wines originate solely from glycosidically-bound VPCs. Thus, our data demonstrate that while VPC-glycosides are elevated in smoke-exposed grapes, they may not be the only contributor to the levels of free VPCs in the resulting wines and other, currently unidentified, storage forms likely exist

Identifying the major, in-grape storage form of VPCs—whether as simple glycosides or as other putative, but currently unidentified, forms—and monitoring their microbial metabolism during fermentation are both critical for developing practical, objective and accurate smoke-taint assessment techniques. This knowledge will also facilitate the development of potential mitigation or amelioration strategies. However, given our understanding of how the chemical composition of smoke can influence the sensorial characteristics of smoke-taint, and how fuel source, among other variables, can impact smoke composition, it is unlikely that a global solution to smoke-taint exists. Rather, smoke-taint should be dealt with by wine growing regions, with routine monitoring programs set-up to establish baseline levels of VPCs. This approach allows wineries to have a quantitative difference from ‘normal’ and, over time, correlate those values to perceived smoke-taint in wine. Such programs have already been successfully implemented by the Australian Wine Research Institute and ETS Laboratories in California. However, for reasons already highlighted, the onus is on each wine producing region to understand how smoke-taint presents in their grapes and wines. Achieving this will require a conscious and cohesive decision from grape growers and wine producers to invest in understanding smoke-taint in their region. While it can undoubtedly be challenging to achieve unanimity, doing so will help wineries secure the integrity of their supply chain and the quality of their wines as climate changes alters ‘typical’ growing conditions.

Wesley Zandberg earned his PhD in chemistry in 2010 at Simon Fraser University under the supervision of Dr. B Mario Pinto. Prior to this he earned a BSc (honours) degree at Trinity Western University, majoring in biology and chemistry. Following his doctoral studies, he remained at SFU in the Laboratory of Chemical Glycobiology, headed by Dr David Vocadlo, until his appointment (in January 2015) as an assistant professor of Chemistry at the University of British Columbia's (UBC's) Okanagan campus, located in Kelowna BC, the heart of BC's wine country. During both his PhD and post-doctoral studies, he has been researching the biological effects of experimental drugs that interfere with normal carbohydrate metabolism in either cell culture or animal models. This research involved the development of numerous analytical tools and methods to study the complex carbohydrates produced by living things. Dr. Zandberg's research group now specializes in harnessing the techniques and tools of analytical chemistry to study how microbes like yeast and bacteria break down carbohydrate-containing compounds in grapes, wine, milk and dairy products (etc.), in order to better understand the biological impact of these chemical processes.

Matthew Noestheden is currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Chemistry at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus under the supervision of Dr. Wesley F Zandberg. His PhD research is focused on developing new analytical strategies to investigate smoke-taint and the application of these techniques to facilitate the rational design of protective and remediation strategies. Prior to this he earned a BSc (honours) degree at the University of Saskatchewan, majoring in biochemistry and an MSc in chemistry from the University of Ottawa under the supervision of Dr. John Pezacki. Between his MSc and returning to pursue his PhD, he worked for 10 years as a liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry expert, with notable roles as a consultant for Agilent Technologies and as an application specialist for SCIEX.

Posted by in Chemistry, Viticulture

The terroir of Port wine: Two hundred and sixty years of history

By Paula Silva

When, I decided to work in wine area, as any new learner, I tried to read about specific issues that are important for my research. Being wine the base of my work, one of my bibliographic research targets was Douro Demarcated Region. For my surprise, I did not find any review paper about the region terroir and/or Port wine. The main information about the oldest demarcated and regulated region of the world and about the most famous Portuguese fortified wine was diffuse in books written in Portuguese, some of which very old ones, being inaccessible for most people. Therefore, I decided to write a review paper about terroir of Port wine to tribute the two hundred and sixty years of history of Douro Demarcated Region.

For that I joined 3 motivated students to Bento Amaral, director of technical services in Douro and Porto Wines Institute, and together we boarded on the adventure of collecting most of the existing data about this issue. The final document, just accepted for publication in the Food Chemistry journal, describes Douro Demarcated Region terroir, namely: climate (temperature, precipitation, humidity, and water-balance features), soil, ampelography (the three most important of both red and white wine cultivars for the Port wine production are described), and human activity (vineyard practices, vinification). The effects of this specific terroir on the chemical and sensory attributes of Port wine are then explored. I am very proud to be the responsible for the first review paper that provides an extensive insight regarding different aspects that influence the quality and uniqueness of Port wine. I am sure that this paper will be very important for people that work not only with Port wine but also with Douro wines. The article is available for reading until the 4th of May 2018, for more information please contact me.

Posted by in Chemistry, Enology, History, Viticulture

Stephen Hawking – “Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny.”

By Paula Silva

What inspires me? LIFE. Today died Stephen Hawking, a man that truly inspire me with his life. Usually, I only post once a week, at Sundays, but today I need tribute Stephen Hawking with a post about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). I was always fascinated by nervous system, maybe because it was the research area of one of my mentors, who I had the privilege of work with in Laboratory of Histology and Embryology (Institute of Biomedical Sciences Abel Salazar, University of Porto). Two years ago, inspired by Stephen Hawking and by Salvador Guedes, a man of wine world that also has ALS, I decided to explore the idea of developing a project with ALS and wine. The result was an application to a PhD grant. The student did not get the grant and left. Without student and money, the project was forgotten in a PC folder, until today when I heard about Stephen Hawking dead. 

As you know I am starting to explore a new scientific route, and I can assure you it is not easy an easy walk! But at the worst moments, quotes like "However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don't just give up" and “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change” inspire me to move on. Who told them? An inspiring man and scientist, Stephen Hawking .

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal progressive degenerative disorder that affects lower motor neurons in brainstem and spinal cord, and the upper motor neurons in the motor cortex. Loss of these neurons leads to muscle atrophy and weakness, fasciculations and spasticity and currently no effective treatment is available. ALS exists in two forms: sporadic (SALS) with no known genetic component and familial (FALS) with a positive familial history and a genetic component. In 20 % of FALS, missense mutations have been identified in the gene coding for superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) (1), that lead to development of animal models of the disease. Various hypotheses were proposed to explain ALS pathophysiological mechanisms including protein aggregation (2), oxidative stress (3), mitochondrial dysfunction (4), excitotoxicity (5), and neuroinflammation (6). Neuroinflammation modulation has been proposed as an important mechanism for ALS (7). Indeed, the analysis of spinal cord tissue and cerebrospinal fluid from SALS and FALS cases revealed increased microglial activation and T cells infiltration, and higher concentration of proinflammatory mediators (8). Oxidative stress, has been proposed to be involved in ALS, being reported that malondialdehyde, hydroxynonenal, oxidised proteins, DNA and membrane phospholipids are elevated in ALS patients and in several model systems (3; 9-12). Polyphenols display antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (13). Red wine contains a polyphenols mixture that are responsible for health beneficial effects of moderate wine consumption, including in neurodegenerative diseases (14). The effects of wine polyphenols in ALS are only starting to be explored; nonetheless resveratrol and quercetin have been showing promising results. Resveratrol supplementation improves motor-neuron function and extends the lifespan of the SOD1G93A mouse model of ALS due to its antioxidant properties (15, 16). Resveratrol can increase the viability of a mutant SOD1-expressing cell line and can penetrate the central nervous system (17). Quercetin had an antioxidant effect in lymphoblast cell lines derived from patients with SOD1 linked FALS, and sporadic ALS (18). Given the wide spectrum of mechanisms involved in degeneration of motor neurons, combinatorial approaches represent the most promising strategy for preclinical assays, so the administration of a wine polyphenol extract could present synergistic/additive interactions. With this background my idea is to evaluate the synergistic/additive effects of wine polyphenols alone and in mixtures in the modulation of neuroinflammation and oxidative stress in ALS. Also, to correlate the inflammatory and oxidative stress markers of the SOD1G93A mice model with human ALS samples. Stephen Hawking liked a good glass of wine and champagne. Curiously, Michael Church, a Stephen Hawking friend, told that he noticed Stephen disease on a New Year’s Eve party, when he had difficulties filling a glass and that most of the wine ended up on the tablecloth. This incident aware him and other friends for ALS, and together tried to minimize the disturbances in Stephen life caused by ALS. Would not be interesting if wine polyphenols could help to minimize ALS effects. Do you think that this is nonsense correlation? No, again, I agree with Stephen “Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny”. Who wants to join me in this adventure?

(1) Nature. 1993;362(6415):59-62.

(2) CNS & Neurological Disorders-Drug. 2010;9(3):285-96.

(3) Free Radical Biology and Medicine. 2010;48(5):629-41.

(4) Archives Italiennes de Biologie. 2011;149(1):113-9.

(5) CNS & Neurological Disorders-Drug Targets. 2010;9(3):297-304.

(6) Annals of Neurology. 2001;50(5):630-9.

(7) Neuron. 2009;64(1):55-60.

(8) Progress in neurobiology. 2015;133:1-26.

(9) Free Radical Biology and Medicine. 2000;29(7):652-8.

(10) Journal of Neurochemistry. 1997;69(5):2064-74.

(11) FASEB Journal. 1999;13(15):2318-28.

(12) Annals of Neurology. 1995;38(4):691-5.

(13) Current Opinion in Food Science. 2016;8:33-42.

(14) Maturitas. 2015;80(1):3-13.

(15) BioMed Research International. 2014;2014:483501.

(16) Neurotherapeutics. 2014;11(2):419-32.

(17) Free Radical Biology and Medicine. 2009;46(8):1127-38.

(18) The EMBO journal. 2007;26(13):3169-79.

Posted by in Curiosities

Wine components and health and well being

By Norbert Latruffe

While there is a tremendous literature on the topic of wine and health ranging back to the days of Hippocrates, it is considered that there is an unlimited variety of wine, allowing the association of senses, nutrition, and hedonism. The history of vine and wine has lasted for at least 7000 years. Vitis, an adaptable plant, thanks to a large variety of strains; wine is an alchemy with unique properties; a rich and original composition in terms of polyphenols, and well known anti-oxidants. This explains why wine and health are closely linked to nutrition.
In terms of biochemical mechanisms, vine like other plants produce numerous non- energy compounds, called secondary metabolites (e.g., flavonoids, polyphenols), in order to adapt their defences against often unfavourable environment (biotic and non- biotic stresses), Interestingly, in humans and in the animals kingdom these microconstituents provide similar valuable bioactive properties for essential cell and physiological function (signalling, gene regulation, prevention of acquired or infectious disease, etc). These compounds have been selected through evolution and are generally preserved in all living beings. For instance, resveratrol that plays an essential role in vine plants as elicitor of the natural defences has been shown to be a protector of health in humans. It could delay, or even block, the appearance of predominant diseases such as atherosclerosis b protecting low-density lipoproteins from the oxidation, but also diabetes and cancer.

Grape, fresh or dried, is a widely consumed fruit by large human populations, as also its by-products, like grape juice and wine, even extracts of vine leaves and shoot use. They contain vast and highly varied quantities of polyphenols as protective micronutrient. Wine, provide unique polyphenols: for instance, resveratrol, procyanidines and monophenols such as hydroxytyrosol and tyrosol. The research supports the idea that wine, a natural biological product, if consumed regularly, but without excess, possesses preventive properties, not only its well-known properties against vascular diseases (illustrated by the so-called French paradox) but also may prevent infections, decrease inflammation, delay neurodegenerative diseases. The question about cancer is still open. Despite the huge amount of data on this topic, there is still gray areas and uncomplete knowledge concerning the effects of wine on human physiology (cardiovascular, aged linked neuro-disorders, behavior and s.o.); the effects of polyphenols as wine anti-oxidants and as signaling molecules; and from a humanity point of view, the tasting properties of wine. This is why it is important to bring wine to a better view especially through the policy makers, the medical world and the vectors of image in order to explain the rational and the philosophy with respect to ethics and the public health.

Norbert Latruffe, PhD 1977, and appointed in 1989 full Professor in Biochemistry at the University of Burgundy Dijon France, as head of the Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Biology to 2006. Then he was in charge of the team of Biochemistry of Metabolism and Nutrition in the INSERM research center, UMR 866 of Dijon until end of 2011. Since 2013 he is senior Professor at the laboratory of Biochemistry at the faculty of life science. In 1998 he launched a new challenge on the preventing role of vine polyphenols especially resveratrol, against age related pathologies: cancer, inflammation cardiovascular. He was one of the first to explore resveratrol transport and metabolism (2004), its pro-apoptotic properties (2004), discovered a new resveratrol signaling pathway through micro RNA’s modulation (2010).

In 2012 in a clinical study, he showed, with Dr. Jean Pierre Rifler, co-guest editor of this present issue, that a moderated consumption of wine can be proposed as a secondary prevention of heart infarct patients. In 2014 he showed a preventive effect of wine polyphenols towards colon cancer in mice model. He organized several and workshop on wine and health (Beaune, Hyeres in Provence, Crete (forthcoming). Recently he served as editor or co-editor of « Molecules » two special issues: Natural products and inflammation (2016) and Improvement of resveratrol efficacy (2017). To date, he published near 170 international papers and has given more than invited 140 lectures. In 2017 he conducted the edition of a book deal on wine and Mediterranean diet (EUD editor, Dijon). N. Latruffe is (or past) expert member of several evaluation councils (CNRS, AFSSA, AERES, CNU, Cancer League, UE...). He is member of the orientation council of the prestigious UNESCO Chair « heritage and traditions of wine». He awarded several distinctions (Prize at the 16th Oncology and Molecular Medicine at Rhodes, laureate of the APICIL foundation for pain, medal of the « Palmes Académiques », associated member of Academy of Sciences, Art and Litterature, and s.o.).

Posted by in Health

Monthly Assignment Challenge – March

By Chris Gill

I agree Daniele, the best ideas do often originate in convivial situations among friends and colleagues, a glass of red in hand or maybe even a Gin & Tonic. Unlike Dan, when growing up in Northern Ireland often it was the “a pint of the Black Stuff” that was mentioned by my Dad and Grandad (A.K.A a pint of Guinness). It was only later in life I began to discover the joys of “the Red Stuff” (red wine, especially Italian) and develop my palate, epitomised to me in the delightful contrast between a Ripasso della Valpolicella and an Amarone della Valpolicella.
The last grapes normally harvested in Valpolicella are those destined for the Amarones, they undergo a period of desiccation concentrating the juices within the grape and increasing the skin contact of the grapes; ultimately resulting in full-bodied wines with flavour and aroma akin to Port wine, with notes of bitter-sweet dark chocolate and raisins among others. While the Ripasso style represents partially-aged Valpolicella wines that have been placed in contact with grape pomace from production of Amarone, to add extra tannins and some phenolic compounds to an improve the wine's complexity, flavour and colour.
We don't know if polyphenols are really the secret to living a long and healthy life or just one aspect of a healthy lifestyle, although a lot of excellent science is addressing this area. I would agree with Dan that if they are...their efficacy depends on the capacity of our gut microbiota to make them different and more “active”. My interest in phytochemicals, digestion and health was sparked by mentor Prof. Ian Rowland, fanned through a longstanding interest in berries with Dr Gordon McDougall (James Hutton Institute) and Dr Kieran Tuohy (Fondazione Edmund Mach). Latterly more fuel has been poured on the fire of scientific curiosity through collaborations with Profs Alan Crozier and Dan Del Rio; culminating in working with Prof Helene Mc Nulty and the VALID team to understand how procyanidins (red wine, tea, cocoa), could interact with our gut microbes and be transformed in circulating metabolites that may affect cognitive decline of the aging brain.

Wine polyphenols likely exert their effects through interactions with the gut microbiota, by changing the microbiota and, at the same time, metabolising them into different and more active compounds. For example, moderate consumption of a Spanish Merlot (Penedès appellation) improved cardiometabolic health markers and the composition of phenolic metabolites present in faeces than Gin (sorry Gin drinkers), albeit with a lot of person to person variation. So, which is more important, the quantity and types of polyphenols in the wine that help give rise to the complexity, flavour and colour that so clearly differ from a fuller bodied Amarone or Ripasso to a medium bodied Teroldego (from Trentino) through to a light Lambrusco Secco; or is it the composition of bacteria present in your gut and types of active compounds they can generate that will be more important. What are your thoughts Kieran Touhy?

Chris Gill gained his PhD from Ulster University (2000). Senior lecturer (2014) in nutrition at the Ulster University and thematic leader for “Phytochemicals and gut microflora in health and diseases” within the Nutrition Innovation Centre for Food and Health (NICHE). His research focuses on the influence of diet (both terrestrial and marine plants) on gut health investigated through in vitro, animal and human models. Dr Gill has published 30+ research papers, 6 book chapters and 1 patent, developed of an extensive research network with internationally leading research centres and the secured of significant research income of £1.6 million from a range of sources from prestigious sources including the EU, BBSRC NPRC and FIRM. He is an Editor for the European Journal of Nutrition (2014) and recent recipient of the University of Ulster Distinguished Research Fellowship (2015).

Posted by in Chemistry, Health