Italian Wine News


Lambrusco, or The 'Emilian Paradox'
Prof. Carlo Fernandez, Director of the Practical Cardiology School of the University of Florence
– December 26, 2006

Lambrusco di Reggio EmiliaIn 1999 the Consortium of Lambrusco from Modena and Reggio Emilia, and the Enoteca Regionale Emilia Romagna (Emilia Romagna Regional Wine Bar) decided to commission an anonymous detailed analysis of components with possible vascular-protective characteristics in four Lambrusco samples.

The research was organized by myself and was awarded to the Istituto Mario Negri Sud, the world renowned center for pharmacological and biomedical research.

In particular, the project took into account the following:

  1. Complete analyses of all the phenolic substances
  2. Chromatographic analyses (HPLC) and gascromatography of the mass (GC-MS)
  3. Global polimoleculecar evaluation and of the antioxidant components.

The research was completed in the year 2000 and the result highlighted an important presence of poliphenol, as well as of other components noteworthy of biomedical interest.

The spectrophotometric analyses regarding the content of poliphenol, revealed that the four different samples contained 11.5 mgh/l, that is, values fairly similar to the ones related to wines with much higher alcohol content and stronger body.

The liquid chromatography at high pressure (HPLC) and the gaschromatography analyses paired with the mass spectrometry (GC-MS) gave interesting results as well.

The results were consistent applying the various techniques, revealing the presence of stilben, phenolic acids, trans- and cis-resveratrol in quantities absolutely equal. or higher, than those found by other studies on Italian, French and American wines.

The biggest surprise was the extremely high concentration of cumarinic substances in the four wines, both when compared to the other varieties of poliphenol, as well as when compared to data published for well known international wines.

The surprise was even bigger when the researchers analyzed the individual types of cumarin compounds found in the Lambrusco. It turned out that the structure of those substances were not totally equal to those known to be found in most wines, but rather typical of other main varieties of cumarin, belonging to the esculetina and umbellipheron type.

These types of cumarin are well known for their anticoagulant proprieties, which act in a completely different way compared to the antioxidant variety.

The umbellipheron, sometimes called also schimmetina, is the major metabolic cumarin agent found in the human body. The cumarin is used in pharmacology as the main anticoagulant, with emetic and parietal effect, and its use is mandatory for cases acute myocardial heart attack and in post-heart attack treatments, as well as in all cases where the patient needs coronary angioplasty, angioplasty with stent, or by-pass.

The existing literature did not provide comparative elements of relevant interest, as there were no specific data provided by studies of other Italian or international wines. In other words, the cumarin level has been measured for the first time in these particular types of wine. Neither the winemaking techniques typically used in the Lambrusco production, nor the storage methods could provide an exhaustive explanation for the presence of cumarin. This situation could be hypothesized in a wine aged for many years in wooden barrels, a wine undergoing special treatment for the preservation of its color in time, or again in the presence of high quantities of tannins. None of these situations apply to the Lambrusco winemaking technique.

Based on the study's results, it was decided to evaluate the effects upon the cerebrocardiovascular pathology in daily drinkers of these wines in the Emilia Romagna region. Some unpredictable elements of great importance were found, and they can be synthesized as follows: in a region with a diet rich in fat, pork meat, cheese and overall known for its hyper caloric content, the percentage of mortality, and the cerebral and cardiovascular pathologies are definitely lower when compared with the ones from nearby and neighboring regions, such as Lombardy, Marche, Tuscany, Veneto, Piedmont and Liguria.

These facts allow us to state the existence of an 'Emilian paradox'!

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