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Healthy Drinking: The Health Benefits of Sake

For centuries, people have incorporated sake in holistic treatments. Whether administered for increasing blood circulation or poured in baths for skin rejuvenation, sake has been used in a variety of remedies. Today, medical research is investigating just how potent sake can be in treating and preventing certain ailments.

So, what exactly are the health benefits of sake? Can it really relieve chronic illness pains? Does a sake bath really prevent wrinkles? Here we have a brief list of current scientific studies that are investigating the potential health benefits of drinking sake. For those that want to dive deeper into the topic, try referring to ‘Sake, Health and Longevity’ by Dr. Yukio Takizawa.

Sake and Beauty Routines

Several beauty outlets celebrate sake as a preventative measure against wrinkles, dullness, and other aging effects on the skin. In fact, hot springs inside and outside of Japan often feature restorative sake baths as a tourist attraction. Sake and sake kasu also serve as ingredients in face creams, lotions, and shampoos.

The Health-Benefiting Capabilities of Sake

As a fermented alcohol, sake has a moderately high-calorie count and sugar content. Needless to say, the possible health benefits of sake don’t apply to a weight-loss diet. Many of the unique properties in sake come from the specific yeast strains and koji activity. Some researchers believe these properties can positively impact the body on the cellular level. As a result, scientists developed experiments and case studies to test the health-benefiting capabilities of sake. For example, the fruity aroma of Ginjo sake has a physiological and psychological relaxing effect. Some of these studies also investigate some popular claims and uses of sake related to health.

Please keep in mind that sake is an alcoholic beverage. Any alcohol can have negative effects with heavy consumption over time. Therefore, drinking responsibility is of utmost importance.

Amino Acids and Body Functions

Amino acids play a crucial role in shaping the flavor of sake. The presence of different amino acids influences the sweetness, bitterness, and umami levels. However, they also provide sake with nutritional properties, unlike other alcoholic beverages. Many of the amino acids present in sake play important roles in different biological functions.

Seven of the key amino acids in sake include alanine, arginine, glutamate, valine, proline, lysine, and leucine. Alanine participates in the breakdown of glucose and energy-producing reactions. Arginine is related to reactions to stress and injury. Valine has a stimulant effect that can encourage muscle growth and proline builds bodily materials in the skin. Glutamine, lysine, and leucine all participate in immune responses, detoxification, and protecting the body from damage.

Each of these amino acids have proposed benefits to different bodily ailments. For example, the relationship between arginine, injury, and human growth hormone has inspired research on its use in tumor suppression. Glutamine is also part of the antioxidant compound glutathione or GSH. Researchers have examined how GSH metabolism could increase immune responses and affect radiation resistance in cancer treatments.

The Power of Peptides

Peptides are short chains of amino acids. As with the aforementioned amino acids, peptides not only give sake much of its flavor profile but play important biological roles. General research on peptides explores its potential anti-inflammatory effects and tissue-building qualities.

The most basic function of peptides is its role in building proteins. These proteins, like creatine and collagen, contribute to muscle growth and repair. Some research also suggests that peptides can reduce inflammatory responses. Inflammation is a natural immune response that prevents tissue damage. However, many chronic illnesses exhibit overactive immune responses, particularly unwanted inflammation. These constructive and preventative effects have made peptides a common component of supplements and synthetic medications.

Additional medical research has investigated memory loss and dementia treatment using peptides. Scientific evidence suggests a link between memory loss and the enzyme prolyl endopeptidase, or PEP. In a recent study, peptides displayed inhibiting effects on PEP activity. As a result, further research on PEP-inhibiting peptides has explored its potential as a possible dementia treatment.

Artery Health and Stroke Risk

Numerous studies on alcohol consumption explore its relationship with cardiovascular conditions. These studies link moderate consumption with a decrease in bad cholesterol and reduced incidence of circulatory problems. Lowering bad cholesterol and improving circulatory conditions can reduce the risk of coronary artery disease and stroke.

There are two types of cholesterol transporting compounds: low-density lipoprotein, LDL, and high-density lipoprotein, HDL. Evidence suggests that HDL removes cholesterol from arteries for excretion or reuse, resulting in its reputation as “good cholesterol”. Moderate alcohol consumption shows a strong correlation with a decrease in LDL. This research observed the distribution patterns of LDL and HDL particles in artery walls. A study investigating the connection between sake and cholesterol levels suggests that lower LDL levels may be a result of increased HDL levels.

Strokes cause severe damage to nerve cells as a result of interrupted blood flow. The most common strokes are ischemic strokes caused by blood clots blocking arteries. Research suggests that moderate alcohol consumption reduces the risk of ischemic stroke. This is possibly due to a reduction in platelet gathering proteins or an increase in platelet dispersing proteins. In the case of sake, stroke risk may be further reduced due to the presence of antioxidants.

Sake Kasu: A Nutritional Powerhouse

The Japanese people have known about the utility of sake kasu, or sake lees (cake), for centuries. Sake kasu itself is a by-product of the sake brewing process. It is the solid component of the fermented rice, koji, and yeast mash remaining after pressing out the liquid sake.

Sake kasu is rich in dietary fiber and protein. It also contains peptides and amino acids, which are produced by the enzymatic decomposition of koji mold and the fermentation of yeast.

For years, sake kasu has served as an ingredient in soups, seasoning for preserved vegetables, and as an additive in other beverage production. Because it contains a mixture of rice, yeast, and koji, sake kasu has very high levels of vitamins and proteins. While chefs look for more ways to use sake kasu in the kitchen, scientists are researching the ways it can help treat lifestyle and chronic ailments.

Among microorganisms, yeast contains high amounts of folic acid and S-adenosylmethionine (SAM). Sake yeast, in particular, produces a high amount of SAM, which is found in sake lees.
Folic acid is an essential vitamin, and SAM is known for its mood-improving, antihepatotoxic, and anti-arthritic effects.

Furthermore, it has been reported that sake kasu and its components of protein and peptides have many benefits such as promoting blood alcohol metabolism, suppressing blood pressure increase, reducing cholesterol, lowering blood triglycerides, and warming the body by improving blood flow.

Antioxidant Boost

Sake kasu contains several chemical components resulting from the fermentation process. Many of these components come from the raw materials in sake making. However, a unique property of sake kasu is the presence of antioxidative compounds.

Antioxidants are compounds that prevent or slow oxidation, or cell degradation. A large amount of cellular oxidation causes oxidative stress. Many studies suggest a link between oxidative stress and degenerative health conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease. The role of antioxidant supplements in preventing disease is still under debate. However, naturally occurring antioxidants produced by the body and found in regular diet help balance the effects of oxidative stress.

A well-known antioxidative compound, ferulic acid, forms from rice as a by-product of the sake brewing process. Uniquely, research suggests that ferulic acid may have a performance-boosting effect on other antioxidants.

Digestive Health

Fermented foods have a reputation as probiotic, gut health-promoting dishes. Sake kasu is no different. Sake kasu contains a lot of starches and proteins that can not be broken down by koji enzymes. These are called “resistant starch” and “resistant protein”. The fermentation process imbues foods with living microorganisms and higher concentrations of lactic and citric acids. Together, these components may result in a stronger gut biome.

Theories suggest that both sake and sake kasu correlate with digestion and the immune system. Two of the most important intestinal barrier components for a strong gut immune system are mucin and immunoglobulin A (IgA). Research studying increased sake kasu consumption demonstrated an increase in IgA and mucin levels in fecal matter. This suggests that sake kasu may lead to an increase of mucin and IgA within the intestines.

Another important component of digestive health is the presence of diverse gut microbiota. These microorganisms aid in digestion, synthesizing vitamins and may prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. Studies link sake kasu with increased production of good bacteria, such as lactobacillales, within the gut biome.

Sake Kasu and Skin Care

Sake has a long-held reputation in the beauty industry as a wonder product for skin. Improving the intestinal environment with sake lees has a positive effect on the skin.

Sake kasu also contains the essential fatty acid linoleic acid. Like amino acids, linoleic acid exhibits potential hydrating effects in the skin. However, research also suggests that linoleic acid may contain anti-inflammatory properties. The acid has also demonstrated therapeutic effects in treating eczema.

In Conclusion

Several theories suggest that sake may contain nutritional and health benefits for common ailments. Furthermore, sake lees, a by-product of sake brewing, also have amazing health power. As you can see, nothing goes to waste in the sake making process. Incorporating a sip of sake into your routine could promote well-being when consumed in moderation. However, sake also provides intangible benefits seen through bringing people together and celebrating seasonal changes. Let sake warm your spirits and relax your body. Just remember to drink responsibly.

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