Keep the brain young, fight heart disease, maintain oral health? What is this super food?

Lovers of red wine, rejoice!

Researchers have now identified yet another reason why you should keep on enjoying this beverage.

Some of us love to savor a glass of red wine — or two — with dinner every once in a while.

The catch is that this velvety drink often leaves the teeth stained, so maybe it’s not such a good idea to order it on your first date or while out on a business dinner.

That being the case, it’s certainly not intuitive to infer that red wine could do anything for your oral health — the contrary, rather.

The research was led by M. Victoria Moreno-Arribas and colleagues from Instituto de Investigación en Ciencias de la Alimentación in Madrid, and the Department of Health and Genomics at the Center for Advanced Research in Public Health in Valencia.

Moreno-Arribas and team have now published their findings in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Moreno-Arribas and her colleagues have revealed another merit that speaks in favor of red wine: some of its components may protect against the formation of cavities and against gum disease.

The health benefits of red wine come from its content of polyphenols. These are a series of micro-nutrients with antioxidant properties. As antioxidants, they can protect against action of free radicals, which are unstable atoms that play a key role in the cellular aging process.

Polyphenols are nutritional superheroes with many secret weapons. One of these is their impact on our gut bacteria. Some polyphenols can be absorbed into the small intestine, there to interact with the gut microbiota and fend off some of the bacterial “bad guys” that might threaten our health.

Picking up on this thread, Moreno-Arribas and colleagues hypothesized that polyphenols found in red wine and grapes could have a similar, protective effect in the mouth, fending off harmful oral bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease.

What happens in the mouth

In the new study, the scientists first compared the effect of two types of polyphenol typically found in red wine (caffeic acid and p-coumaric acid) as well as that of red wine and grape seed extracts (Provinols and Vitaflavan) on three harmful oral bacteria: Fusobacterium nucleatumStreptococcus mutans, and Porphyromonas gingivalis.

What they found — experimenting with a laboratory model of gum tissue — was that the two red wine polyphenols caffeic acid and p-coumaric acid were most effective at repelling the harmful oral bacteria and preventing them from attaching to healthy tissue.

Next, they tested a mix of caffeic acid, p-coumaric acid, and Streptococcus dentisani, which is an oral probiotic that, as recent research has suggested, may help to prevent tooth decay.

This experiment was even more successful, as the protective effect of the two polyphenols was enhanced by the presence of the probiotic.

Finally, the analysis of phenolic metabolites, which are substances formed as the polyphenols start transforming in the mouth, suggested that these small products may in fact be the “active ingredient” associated with the polyphenols’ protective effect.

So go ahead — pour yourself a glass of red wine tonight, safe in the thought that this drink, at least, won’t cause you any oral suffering. Of course, don’t overdo it; red wine is an alcoholic beverage, after all, and too much alcohol isn’t anyone’s friend.

Using a small wine glass, though, could help you curb your appetite a little, so you can delight your palate — and teeth and gums — with some polyphenols, while still keeping your gray matter quite safe.

Adapted article: