Could Red Wine Prevent Cancer?

Posted on: February 15, 2016

By Jewel Johl, MD

By Jewel Johl, MD

 Red wine has properties that long have been thought of as heart healthy. The alcohol and antioxidants in red wine may help prevent heart disease by increasing levels of “good” cholesterol and protecting against artery damage. Yet, doctors are wary of encouraging anyone to start drinking alcohol, because too much alcohol can have many harmful effects on your body.

Studies have been done between a main ingredient in red wine and cancer. This substance is called resveratrol, which is produced by plants in response to stress. Resveratrol began catching the attention of scientists and studies began on mice to protect against obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The scientists gave the mice high doses of purified resveratrol, to see if they could prevent or fight cancer. The study found that high doses of purified resveratrol were safe… but is it recommended?

In 2015 a study by researchers in Leicester used low doses of the purified resveratrol instead of high doses and found that mice with genetically engineered bowel cancer had a 50% reduction in tumor size. This is compared to the high dose study that resulted in only a 25% reduction. These dramatic results were seen in mice that had a high fat diet. Resveratrol is not the only plant substance or vitamin that is being studied for cancer prevention and treatment and is still in early animal testing stages.

Resveratrol is also found in red grapes, red grape juice, berries, peanuts and cocoa. There are supplements currently available at health food stores, pharmacies and online, but are not generally recommended. The tablet doses are not standardized, side effects are unknown and these supplements are not regulated by the FDA.

Many articles have been written over the years that there may be a health benefit to getting your daily dose of resveratrol from a glass of red wine or over-the-counter supplements, but researchers are not yet convinced. Additionally, data from 2015 estimated that 19,500 cancer deaths in the United States were alcohol related. The harmful effects of alcohol far outweigh the intake of resveratrol.

So could red wine prevent cancer? Not likely.

If you want to reduce your risk of cancer, cut back on alcohol intake, don’t smoke, keep your body at a healthy weight through exercise and eating right.