Scientists test functional drinks to prevent cardiovascular diseases

The next step, which will be left for a new project, will be to validate these results in volunteers with and without metabolic syndrome

They are fermented in a similar way to wine, but they do not contain alcohol and researchers suspect they hold the key to preventing cardiovascular disease (CVD). These recipes, formulated by Sumol + Compal and Tetrapack and rich in fruit containing phenolic compounds (antioxidants) associated with health, aim to prevent heart attacks or strokes.

Nectars of the future, use alcoholic fermentation technology using yeast to reduce the sugar content of juices without altering their flavor. In addition to this health advantage, they want to combat the main cause of death worldwide. In the coming months, they will begin to arrive at the laboratories of the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Porto (FCUP) to be tested.

In the first phase, the focus will be on chemical and nutritional characteristics, to understand what changes in a juice when fermented and which molecules and nutrients are most promising.

An initial study with a very clear objective: “We want to understand whether these drinks are capable of reversing a set of metabolic changes, such as diabetes and hypertension, because we know that those who develop them are 3,5 times more likely to develop CVD”, explains the project leader, Iva Fernandes, professor at FCUP and researcher at the Associated Laboratory for Green Chemistry (LAQV-REQUIMTE).

In the FERMEN.TO project, researchers want to understand the full impact of the fermentation process on a drink during its production and the journey and transformation of the different components after oral intake. “To understand the impact of fermented drinks on human health, we will simulate, on an in vitro platform, the process of ingesting juices from the mouth, through the stomach and intestine, taking samples throughout the process and understanding what is absorbed in each compartment ", account.

At the end of the simulated “journey” of these drinks through the human body, the most relevant molecules will be selected that can reach the different organs through the bloodstream. To test whether or not metabolic conditions are reversed, in the end, what results from this project is tested with fat cells and muscle tissue, where conditions such as diabetes or hypertension will be simulated.

The objective is to confirm whether these fermented juices are “easier to digest” and whether they strengthen the intestinal flora and to this end, the microbiota is also studied after ingesting these drinks.

The next step, which will be left for a new project, will be to validate these results in volunteers with and without metabolic syndrome.

If the results are as expected, producers will be able to move forward with these new functional drinks and prepare them to hit the shelves and make a difference.

The FERMEN.TO project lasts 18 months and involves the involvement of researchers from FCUP and LAQV-REQUIMTE, NOVA Medical School (NMS), the Research Institute in Food Sciences at the University of Madrid, Sumol+Compal and Tetrapack.