Science

Chemicals found in red wine and green tea ‘could treat metabolic diseases'

The discovery may pave the way for therapies to treat congenital metabolic disorders.

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Two compounds present in red wine and green could treat inherited metabolic diseases, scientists suggest.

New research has found that epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which naturally occurs in green tea, and tannic acid, which is found in red wine, may block the formation of toxic metabolites, ie, substances not directly harmful to the body but can become toxic after they have been metabolised in the liver.

Most people with inherited metabolic disorders are born with a defective gene that results in a key enzyme deficiency.

Patients generally have to follow a strict diet for their entire lives as there is no cure.

Red wine
Red wine contains tannic acid, which the researchers believe could help treat congenital metabolic diseases (Paul Harding/PA)

Shira Shaham-Niv, a doctoral student at Tel Aviv University’s Faculty of Life Sciences, said: “In the case of inborn congenital metabolic diseases, the body does not produce a vital metabolic enzyme.

“As a result, metabolites – substances that are, among other things, the building blocks of DNA and proteins – accumulate in the body.

“Such uncontrolled accumulation is toxic and can cause severe developmental and mental disorders.”

The researchers from Tel Aviv University looked at two compounds – EGCG and tannic acid.

They say EGCG has recently gained attention within the medical community for its potential health benefits while tannic acid is known to prevent the formation of toxic amyloid structures that cause neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Dementia patient
Tannic acid is known to prevent starch-like protein structures that can cause diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s (Yui Mok/PA)

The two substances were tested on three metabolites linked to three inherited metabolic diseases: adenine, cumulative tyrosine and phenylalanine.

Both tannic acid and EGCG were effective in blocking the formation of toxic amyloid structures, the researchers said.

Ms Shaham-Niv said: “We are entering a new era of understanding the role and the importance of metabolites in various diseases, including metabolic diseases, neurodegenerative diseases and even cancer.

“The tools we have developed are ground-breaking and have tremendous potential to help a wide range of patients in the future.”

The research is published in Nature’s group journal Communications Chemistry.

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