Page last updated: Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Phytochemicals May Protect Against Breast Cancer
Scientists at City of Hope Cancer Center in Los Angeles isolated the wine phytochemical, procyanidin B dimer, that when given to mice with breast cancer reduced the size of their tumours. The investigators explain, “ While there are already drugs on the market that can control estrogen-dependent breast cancer development in post-menopausal women, this is the first naturally occurring phytochemical that appears to have the same effect.” It is explained that the phytochemicals work in the same way as these drugs, but have the advantage of naturally occurring in grape skins and seeds.

The scientists caution that the research is based on an animal study, and that clinical trials on post-menopausal women are needed to confirm any benefit to humans. The lead researcher expressed concern about misinterpretation of the data cautioning that people should not consume a lot of red wine, as alcohol is a risk factor for breast cancer. In fact, the study found that for women to ingest the comparable amount of procyanidin B dimer given to the mice, they’ would have to drink a half bottle of red wine daily. However, he adds, for normal, healthy women, one glass of red wine a day or eating grapes with skins and seeds may just reduce the overall circulation of estrogen in the body.

Overall, it is emphasized that this research points to the importance of a healthy well balanced diet that includes naturally occurring phytochemicals. Ref.

A second study by French researchers reported alcohol’s potential beneficial effects with respect to total mortality and cardiovascular health but point out the still inconclusive data with respect to cancer risk. They refer to evidence that wine may be associated with cancer risk reductions due to the polyphenol resveratrol but emphasize that we are lacking data on its availability in vivo. They conclude, “Although regular consumption of one or two glasses of wine seems reasonably safe from a health point of view, a recommendation to the general population for low wine consumption is not justified.”

Reference: Bianchini F et al, Wine and Resveratrol: Mechanisms of Cancer Prevention? European Journal of Cancer Prevention, Vol. 12, 2003

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