Some health benefits of polyphenols have been attributed to the fact that these compounds are antioxidants.
Sipping wine may be good for your oral health, say scientists who found that certain compounds in the drink can fend of harmful bacteria in the teeth and gums.
Traditionally, some health benefits of polyphenols have been attributed to the fact that these compounds are antioxidants, meaning they likely protect the body from harm caused by free radicals.
However, recent work indicates polyphenols might also promote health by actively interacting with bacteria in the gut. Plants and fruits produce polyphenols to ward off infection by harmful bacteria and other pathogens.
Researchers including M Victoria Moreno-Arribas from Institute of Food Science Research (CIAL) in Spain wanted to know whether wine and grape polyphenols would also protect teeth and gums, and how this could work on a molecular level.
The study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, checked out the effect of two red wine polyphenols, as well as commercially available grape seed and red wine extracts, on bacteria that stick to teeth and gums and cause dental plaque, cavities and periodontal disease.
Working with cells that model gum tissue, they found that the two wine polyphenols in isolation - caffeic and p-coumaric acids - were generally better than the total wine extracts at cutting back on the bacteria's ability to stick to the cells.
When combined with the Streptococcus dentisani, which is believed to be an oral probiotic, the polyphenols were even better at fending off the pathogenic bacteria.
The researchers also showed that metabolites formed when digestion of the polyphenols begins in the mouth might be responsible for some of these effects.