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Red Wine: Drink Up to Take Cancer Down?

Focused on Health - January 2012

by Adelina Espat

red wine cancerDoes a glass of wine a day keep the doctor away?

Some studies suggest that yes, red wine may help prevent cancer. Yet, other research has shown that drinking even a small amount of alcohol increases your chances for developing cancer.

These mixed messages may leave you in a wine daze. Luckily, we’re here to bring things back in focus.

Below, we break down the facts on the possible benefits and drawbacks of indulging in wine.

Red wine appears to have anticancer benefits

The ancient Egyptians and Greeks considered wine to be “good for health” and used it as a form of medicine. But researchers question whether this belief still holds true.

What researchers are certain about is this: the skin and seeds of grapes may have cancer-fighting properties. A big part of this cancer-fighting power comes from the antioxidant resveratrol. This natural plant chemical protects your cells from damage that could lead to cancer.

And, red wine is full of resveratrol because it’s made from grapes. But, researchers are still trying to confirm whether the resveratrol in red wine actually prevents cancer.  

Wine selection and serving size matters

red wine cancerWant to reap wine’s possible health benefits? Stick to this advice:

  • Choose red wine over white. The red and purple grapes used to make red wine may have more cancer-fighting benefits. That’s because they contain more resveratrol than green grapes.
  • Look at the vineyard. Before choosing a wine, dig a little deeper to learn about the vineyard that makes the wine. Vineyards located in cooler, moist climates seem to grow grapes with larger amounts of resveratrol than those in warmer, dry climates.
  • Stick to the recommended serving size of five ounces. Women should have no more than one drink per day, and men should have no more than two drinks per day.

Women shouldn’t drink as much as men. The reason? Women have less total body water to dilute the effects of alcohol, so the alcohol stays in a woman’s body longer than in a man’s. And, the longer large amounts of alcohol stay in your body, the higher your risk for brain and organ damage, high blood pressure, stroke, violence, suicide and other injury.

Bottom line: not drinking is the safest choice

Even though some studies suggest that a glass of wine may lower your risk of heart disease, researchers can’t say for sure that a glass of red wine prevents cancer.

But, one thing is certain — heavy drinking does damage your cells and increases your chances for cancer. So, drinking red wine in moderation is definitely the right “spirit.”

Related Links:
Your Guide to Drinking Alcohol (MD Anderson)
Foods that Fight Cancer: Grapes (AICR)

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© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center