"Regular consumption of red fruits or red wine may play an important role in regulating the intestinal microbiota, reducing inflammation, preventing depression, and combating dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases through the presence of a particular class of compounds in these foods (anthocyanins)," the study found.

Led by Conceição Calhau, a researcher at Cintesis and a professor at Nova Medical School, the team conducted a series of studies to evaluate the relationship between the type of diet, the composition of intestinal microbiota, that is, the set of microbes that inhabit the intestine, and the brain itself.

In a first phase, the scientists showed that in animals a diet rich in saturated fat negatively alters the composition of the intestinal microbiota (with a decrease in beneficial bacteria and an increase in inflammatory substances) and leads to inflammation in the brain.

In a second phase, the team tested the efficacy of chronic consumption of anthocyanins, (present in red fruits) in preventing intestinal microbiota imbalance and brain inflammation.

In the animal model it was shown that the continuous intake of blackberry extract rich in these substances is able to improve the intestinal microbiota and reduce the inflammation in the brain that underlies the neurological complications associated with obesity.

In humans, a clinical trial also compared the impact of a blackberry 'purée' when ingested in the presence or absence of alcohol.

"The results suggest that the consumption of blackberry 'puree' with alcohol increases the levels of anthocyanins in the blood.

However, further studies are needed to see if overweight or obese individuals can effectively benefit from the consumption of foods containing both anthocyanins and alcohol, as is the case with red wine," said Cláudia Marques.

Cintesis is a Research and Development Unit (R&D) whose mission is to find answers and solutions, in the short term, for specific health problems, without ever losing sight of cost-effectiveness.

Headquartered at the University of Porto, Cintesis works together with Universidade Nova de Lisboa, the University of Aveiro, the Universities Algarve and Madeira, as well as the Porto Nursing School. In total, the centre brings together about 500 researchers and has seven spin-offs.