Far from just a celebratory treat, we should have a glass of fizz a day to stay slim and stave off dementia. Too good to be true? Here’s the evidence…
By Guy Kelly, The Telegraph
We ought to feel sorry for champagne. So often dismissed as a luxury or party accessory, it rarely gets the chance to be heralded in its own right as a serious drink for every day consumption.
The truth, however, is that champagne is in fact a healthy option, and we can prove it.
Here are five reasons to pop open a bottle of bubbly for its own sake (and then another one, perhaps, to celebrate your new health kick.)
1. It’ll improve your memory
Two years ago, scientists at Reading University gave some rats champagne every day for six weeks, then asked them to complete a maze. That might sound like a fraternity hazing ritual, but the results warranted celebration: without drinking champagne the rats had an average success rate in the maze of 50pc, but that increased to 70pc after some bubbly.
“[The] research is exciting because it illustrates for the first time that moderate consumption of champagne has the potential to influence cognitive functioning such as memory,” said the research’s leader, Dr Jeremy Spencer.
Spencer’s conclusion was that compounds found in the two red grapes used to make champagne – Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier – can improve memory and spatial awareness to the extent that “three glasses a week” could “help delay the onset of degenerative brain disorders, such as dementia.”
The experiment has yet to be repeated on humans, but at the time of the initial study Spencer hoped to conduct a trial asking 50 pensioners to drink champagne for three years in order to test its effects. Presumably he wasn’t lacking for volunteers.
2. It’s good for your heart
A lot has been made of the red wine’s benefits for your heart, but champagne (which is predominantly made from red grapes, of course) is just as healthy. One study found that the sparkling wine contained high levels of polyphenols – antioxidants found in red grapes but less intensely in white – that can lower blood pressure and prevent heart problems.
In fact, Reading’s Dr Jeremy Spencer, a man who appears to have generously given his life over to finding reasons for us to drink more, suggested that two glasses a day will do the trick. “We have found that a couple of glasses a day has a beneficial effect on the walls of blood vessels – which suggests champagne has the potential to reduce strokes and heart disease,” he told the Observer. “It is very exciting news.” Thanks Jeremy.
3. It gets you drunk quickly
As anyone who has enjoyed an overdrawn wedding pre-reception knows, it doesn’t take long for champagne to go to one’s head. That’s not always a good thing, but it does make it the perfect cocktail party tipple, quickly diffusing awkwardness and lifting the mood. (Yes, this health benefit is primarily mental, not physical).
It’s all in the bubbles, apparently. An experiment by the University of Oxford, conducted on a full six peope, found that alcohol levels of participants drinking champagne were higher after 20 minutes than of those given flat sparkling wine. It was decided that fizz gets into the blood stream quicker as a result of the carbonation ‘rushing’ the alcohol from the stomach to the small intestine.
It’s a matter for debate, but whatever the effect, it doesn’t last: even if you accept that bubbly gets you tipsy quicker, after around 45 minutes you’ll be no more drunk than somebody having a glass of wine.
As for the inevitable crash? Heed the advice of champagne connoisseur Bill Murray, who revealed a fail-safe method in an interview with Dazed Digital last year:
“I learned how to drink champagne a while ago. I like to drink it in a big pint glass with ice. I fill it with ice and I pour the champagne in it, because champagne can never be too cold. And the problem people have with champagne is they drink it and they crash with it, because the sugar content is so high and you get really dehydrated.
“But if you can get the ice in it, you can drink it supremely cold and at the same time you’re getting the melting ice, so it’s like a hydration level, and you can stay at this great level for a whole weekend. You don’t want to crash. You want to keep that buzz, that bling, that smile.”
Taking a hit of champagne to the face, as the top three drivers do on the podium after each race, might be an expensive detoxifier, but it’s also an effective one.
“Champagne detoxifies the skin with antioxidants and lightening tartaric acid helps even out the skin tone,” says dermatologist Marina Peredo. “For those with oily skin, its antibacterial properties aid in leaving last year’s breakouts behind.”
5. It contains fewer calories than wine
Unless you consume it by the gallon, choosing champagne over wine or beer represents the diet option. Sort of. A small flute of Brut (which means it contains no more than 12 grams of residual sugar per litre) champagne is roughly 80-100 calories, fewer than a 175ml glass of wine and healthier than a pint of beer.