Image: André Karwath/Wikimedia Commons.
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Chocolate AND red wine!(!)

Image: André Karwath/Wikimedia Commons.
Image: André Karwath/Wikimedia Commons.

Plants and plant products might not necessarily bring you wealth, but they can bring health, and enjoyment. (And, if you are a purveyor of plant-based consumables they may well bring you wealth, too…) So, a timely reminder of some of the nice things that plants provide. But you’d better be quick to take advantage of the first-mentioned pair because in the pick-and-mix world of health advice this snippet of positivity could be reversed at any time (yes, under some circumstances chocolate and/or wine may be bad for you…). However, for now, both dark chocolate (derived in part from the seed of Theobroma cacao), AND red wine (firmly derived from grapes, the fruits of Vitis vinifera) have a medicinalist’s ‘thumbs-up’. According to Susan Ofria (Clinical Nutrition Manager at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, Illinois, USA), ‘in moderation, red wine and dark chocolate are good health choices…’, because red wine and dark chocolate (with a cocoa content ≥ 70 %) contain resveratrol, which has been found to lower blood sugar. Red wine is also a source of catechins, which could help improve ‘good’ HDL cholesterol. And if you ‘drink to forget’ (Proverbs 31: 7) but really want/need to remember what you do/did (where, when, with whom, why, etc…) when under the influence, then nibbling chocolate between sips may help. Experiments by Lee Fruson et al. involving providing (−)epicatechin, a flavonol present in cocoa, to snails (Lymnaea stagnalis) provide data that are ‘consistent with the notion that dietary sources of epi can improve cognitive abilities…’. Furthermore, other work – ascending the evolutionary ladder to mice – by Brian Bernier, Leslie Whitaker and Hitoshi Morikawa at the Waggoner Center for Alcohol and Addiction Research (University of Texas at Austin, USA) suggest that alcohol may prime certain areas of our brain to learn and remember better. As Morikawa explains, ‘Alcohol diminishes our ability to hold on to pieces of information like your colleague’s name… But our subconscious is learning and remembering too, and alcohol may actually increase our capacity to learn…’ (although, after a particularly booze-fuelled, ‘heavy night out’, we never seem to learn ‘not to do it again’…). And if gout (a painful medical condition caused by elevated uric acid levels in the blood, which has a strong association with alcohol consumption) is one of the consequences of your wholeheartedly embracing ‘la vie en rouge’, then a fruit-based remedy might just give your foot a helping hand. Yuqing Zhang et al. find that – in humans this time! – ‘cherry intake is associated with a lower risk of gout attacks’. Pip-pip!

Nigel Chaffey

I am a Botanist and former Senior Lecturer in Botany at Bath Spa University (Bath, near Bristol, UK). As News Editor for the Annals of Botany I contributed the monthly Plant Cuttings column to that august international phytological organ for almost 10 years. I am now a freelance plant science communicator and Visiting Research Fellow at Bath Spa University. I also continue to share my Cuttingsesque items - and appraisals of books with a plant focus - with a plant-curious audience at Botany One. In that guise my main goal is to inform (hopefully, in an educational, and entertaining way) others about plants and plant-people interactions, and thereby improve humankind's botanical literacy. I'm happy to be contacted to discuss potential writing - or talking - projects and opportunities.
[ORCID: 0000-0002-4231-9082]

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