French Paradox as a starting point
Called Red Wine Grape Extract, the full spectrum extract is just what the name purports that it is, a powdered version of red wine, more or less. Red wine is thought of as the key pillar in the so-called French Paradox. This was a name given in the late 1980s to the notion that the French exhibited a low incidence of heart disease even while consuming what health authorities considered at the time to be a diet that had higher than ideal levels of fat. Views on fat in the diet have shifted some in recent decades. Concerns about trans fats, for instance, were not a big part of the conversation thirty years ago. And more recently, some research on vitamin K2 have suggested that the cheese in the French diet might have as much to do with the perceived cardiovascular benefits as did the wine. Nevertheless, researchers continue to find more and more health benefits associated with the polyphenols contained in red wine.
James Kennedy, PhD, president of Polyphenolics, said the company is revisiting a full spectrum ingredient positioning with its Red Wine Grape Extract. The company, which is a division of wine and spirits giant Constellation Brands, has long been know for a reductionist ingredient development strategy, as it drilled down into the specific polyphenols found in the grape seeds, which formed a large portion of the leftovers of wine production. A reductionist strategy in connection with red wine itself had to do with research conducted on resveratrol. This research showed some promise early on, especially in resveratrol’s apparent ability to mimic the anti-aging benefits of a restricted calorie diet in a mouse model. While research on the substance continues, the ‘magic bullet’ aura of the ingredient has worn off.
Synergy is a complex thing to prove
The picture with the function of red wine in the French Paradox was probably always much more complex than just how much resveratrol was being consumed, Kennedy said. More recent research has expanded the benefits of polyphenols beyond cardiovascular benefits and have looked the brain health and gut health benefits of these substances as well. There are dozens of phenolic compounds within red wine, and it’s hard to say which ones might be the most healthful, and whether they would continue to exert those health benefits if administered in isolation. Now, Kennedy, who spoke with NutraIngredients-USA at the recent SupplySide West trade show in Las Vegas, NV, said the company is seeking to capture the synergies present in the complex mixture of polyphenols contained in the raw material used to make red wine: the juice of red grapes.
“It’s going back to the Mediterranean diet and how red wine is often used. If you look at the concentrations of resveratrol in red wines they are really quite low. The studies to date have really tried to look at the other phenolic classes,” he said.
“Researches have looked at proanthocyanidins and, more recently, at anthocyanidis and flavanols,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy said more work needs to be done to parse out the relationships between the various constituents. What is the ideal relative concentration of these substances? With so many variables and potential confounders, such research would be expensive and difficult, and might well enter into the realm of diminishing returns. For instance, a 2013 study by researchers in Slovakia looked at the potential of a suite of red wine polyphenols in arresting the formation of amyloid proteins (the gummy, plaque-like waste proteins implicated in Alzheimer’s disease) in an in vitro model. The researchers found synergistic effects, which they said could ". . .be explained by binding of each polyphenol to a different amino acid sequence within the protein.” But they studied the relationship of only three substances: quercitin, resveratrol and caffeic acid.
A full spectrum extract captures these relationships among all the constituents without necessarily being able to prove their relative benefits, Kennedy said.
“There are some studies that have suggested there can be synergies around some of these phenolic classes. But we haven’t done the clinical work to prove that there is that synergy,” he said.
Benefits without alcohol
Kennedy said the extract expresses the beneifts of red wine without the alcohol. The company claims that a 200mg dose is equivalent to a glass of red wine. Some health authorities have recommended moderate drinking (one or 1.5 oz of alcohol a day) as the most healthful choice between abstinence and heavier drinking. Others, however, don’t believe the benefits outweigh the risks; in other words, it doesn’t make sense to start drinking solely on the basis of the purported health payoff. Kennedy said red wine stands alone because of the phenolic content, which is absent in spirits unless they have been aged in certain kinds of casks or have otherwise had tannins added.
And the Polyphenolics ingredient could be of interest to a market rarely specifically addressed by the dietary supplement industry: recovering alcoholics. According to recent estimates by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 15.1 million adults in the US, or 6.2% of the population, suffer from Alcohol Abuse Disorder.