More Cheers to Red Wine’s Health Benefits

Resveratrol in red wine might have cancer-fighting properties

Break out the bottle — the red wine bottle, that is. The debate about whether alcohol is good for you is ongoing, but a new study says a compound in red wine may prevent cancer.

In this study, tumors shrank in mice that were given compounds found in red wine.

According to the study authors, red wine may have two contrasting effects on cells. On one hand, alcohol is considered a risk factor for certain types of cancer; on the other, a compound in red wine called resveratrol may get rid of potential cancer cells.

“Alcohol bombards your genes,” said lead author Robert A. Sclafani, PhD, of the University of Colorado Cancer Center, in a press release. “Your body has ways to repair this damage, but with enough alcohol eventually some damage isn’t fixed. That’s why excessive alcohol use is a factor in head and neck cancer.”

But resveratrol — which is found in grape skins — may deal with any leftover damaged cells your body has lying around.

“Now, resveratrol challenges these cells — the ones with unrepaired DNA damage are killed, so they can’t go on to cause cancer,” Dr. Sclafani said. “Alcohol damages cells and resveratrol kills damaged cells.”

For their study on red wine, Dr. Sclafani and colleagues tested mice with cancer. They gave the mice a hefty dose of compounds found in red wine that are thought to prevent cancer — including resveratrol. The cancerous tumors in these mice shrank.

That means that, according to this study, red wine’s anti-cancer benefits might outweigh the potential negative effects of alcohol. Sorry scotch-sippers — that’s red wine specifically, not just alcohol.

Dr. Sclafani said that, when you look at past studies of head and neck cancer, “alcohol is a risk factor, but by alcohol source, the lowest cancer incidence is in people who drank red wine. In red wine, there’s something that’s blocking the cancer-causing effect of alcohol.”

And Dr. Sclafani and team have a hunch that resveratrol is a factor.

The subjects of this study were mice, which means these findings may not apply to humans. Dr. Sclafani and team said they plan to conduct more research on red wine and cancer.