Researchers produce anti-heart disease red wine from Bignay

September 29, 2010 10:31 am 

By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Sept 28 (PNA)-– It may not belong to the class of evergreen trees, but bignay, a once lowly plant that grows in the wilds is now a celebrity among local wineries for saving the country from too much red wine importations.

It all started with Dr. Erlinda Dizon, head of the Food Science Cluster of the College of Agriculture of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB) introducing the idea into producing local wine that later cornered for Filipino farmers and local industries a share of the market.

Today, locally manufactured red wines using home-grown fruits particularly bignay is gradually establishing a stronghold in the local market and aiming to go abroad, a statement recently circulated by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) of the Department of Agriculture (DA) said.

Bignay (Antidesma bunius) could be easily mistaken for wild berries or even grapes based on the appearance of its fruits but it is none of these. It comes from the spurge family (Euphorbiaceae).

With its ovoid-shaped fruits clustered together in a bunch, bignay is native to the Philippines and often grows in the mountains with a tropical climate. Each bunch consists of 30-40 small fruits that become colorful due to their uneven ripening.

Some are pale yellowish-green, pale yellow, bright red and dark red, all goes blackish when ripe. Its fruiting season comes between June and September.

In the Philippines, red wine is served only during special occasions. And because we do not grow grapes, all red wine is imported, hence it is quite expensive.

Given however the country's abundance in tropical fruits, Dizon’s idea was realized in 2008 through a project titled, "Technology Commercialization and Packaging of Wine from Selected Local Fruits" with funding support from the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) through its National Technology Commercialization Program (NTCP).

The project sought to showcase appropriately packaged and quality wine from selected fruits and, eventually, to expand the market for local fruit wines.

With results from previous studies on wine-making, Dizon is revalidating the processing parameters to produce quality wine from the laboratory scale to commercial scale production and also to improve the packaging of the products, the BAR said.

"We aimed to establish the quality assurance system like the HACCP, GMP, and SSOP for wine processing, evaluate the marketability and profitability of production system, and enhance the capability of the technology adopters," it quoted Dizon as saying.

“Way back in 1983, we had already screened almost all of the local fruits and looked at their potentials for wine-making. Majority of them were excellent and suitable for wine-making,” Dizon said.

In fact, she said some are way better compared to grapes in terms of flavor and aroma. Out of those 30 different fruits screened, bignay, duhat, and Carabao mango turned out to be excellent substrates for wine processing.

Bignay and duhat represents red wine and mango, which is known worldwide for its sweet taste and good aroma, for the white wine, she explained.

Most wine drinkers, according to Dizon, buy wine mainly for health reasons. "They have heard of the healthful benefits of drinking wine, particularly red wine. It is good not only for old people but for the young ones, in moderation, of course."

Specifically for bignay wine, it has phytochemicals and flavonoids including catechin, proyanidins, B1 and B2. A study suggests that the fruits of bignay possibly contain compounds with potential cytotoxic activity and methanolic properties.

As for health benefits, drinking bignay wine is said to reduce the incidence of coronary heart disease due to its antioxidant properties.

Its alcohol content prevents the deposition of fats inside the arteries, reducing the incidence of atherosclerosis or arteriosclerotic vascular disease (or ASVD) which is a condition in which an artery wall thickens as the result of a build-up of fatty materials such as cholesterol. It was also reported that it can reduce cancer cells.

In another research also funded by the BAR, 15 fruits and vegetables which were initially supposed to be high in antioxidant activity were subjected to evaluation through a study titled, "Antioxidant Potential and Components of Philippine Vegetables and Fruits" .

These fruits and vegetables were malunggay (Moringa oleifera), bignay (Antidesma bunios), squash (Cucurbita maxima), eggplant (Solanum melongena), patola (Luffa spp.), tiesa (Lucuma nervosa), mangosteen (Garciniana mangostana), durian (Durio zibethinus Murr.), kalumpit (Terminalia microcarpa Decne), alugbati (Basella alba), ampalaya (Momordica charantia), bago (Gnenum gnemon), sayote (Sechium edule), saluyot (corchorus olitorius), sitao (Vigna sesquipedalis), and ubi (Dioscorea bulbifera).

This project was implemented under the leadership of Prof. Virgilio Garcia of the Institute of Food Science and Technology, UPLB in collaboration with the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

Garcia and his research team noted that in the recent years, there has been very active research endeavors in the natural antioxidants derived from plants, animals and microorganisms.

Studies showed that antioxidants play a very significant role in the prevention of oxidative damages to the body. This could lead to cardiovascular diseases, diminished immune functions and generation of certain cancers.

In addition, it has been recognized that it is necessary to consume diet forms of antioxidants even though all biological systems have their own defense mechanisms in the form of endogenous enzymatic antioxidants.

Dizon also revealed that there are a lot of benefits from drinking bignay wine. She advised to drink red wine during meal times, just like the French, because it can aid in the digestion of food.

Other benefits from consuming wines, specifically, red wines, is that it can treat anorexia nervosa or loss of appetite. The alcohol in red wine can stimulate gastric juice secretion and hence, can stimulate the appetite.

It also works against food poisoning since alcohol can wipe out bacteria in the stomach thus, preventing their proliferation and possible gastroenteritis.

In product marketing, Dizon said, looks matter. For the wine industry, packaging and labelling serve as the silent salesman. Hence, appropriate wine packaging design is crucial-from the types of bottle and cap used down to the nitty-gritty details of label design.

One of the important objectives of the BAR-UPLB project on tropical wine is to improve the packaging design that will promote both product stability and market viability. Since the project started, the tropical wines developed by the Food Science Cluster of UPLB have been given various packaging designs before these reached the current "posh-, elegant-looking" packaging.

"We packaged our wines after developing the label design. We have also tested our products acceptability to the consumers and the profitability of this project," Dizon said. (PNA) LOR/LQ/DOC/cbd

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