More research is touting the health benefits of red wine. According to a recent study, it might even prevent cancer. Researchers from the University of Colorado Cancer Center say it all comes down to a specific compound that appears to target cancer-causing cells that have DNA damage.
But before you reach for a beer or mixed drink, keep in mind that the findings were limited only to red wine – and in moderate amounts. Even white wine is exempt. This is because the compound, which is called resveratrol, is only present in the skin of the grape. (When white wine is made, the skin is removed in the process.)
“We think what [resveratrol] does is target cells that have DNA damage,” says investigator Robert Sclafani, PhD, a professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics at the CU School of Medicine. “The idea is that those cells that have the most DNA damage will be killed by the compound, and those are the cells that are the most likely to give rise to cancerous lesions.”
The key piece of information here is that red wine consumption should be in moderation. According to Sclafani, any type of alcohol that enters the body is eventually converted into a carcinogen. The good news is that most people go on to excrete it.
“But if you constantly take in high amounts of alcohol, there’s always going to be a little bit of [it] there,” says Sclafani.
In other words, excessive drinking can lead to a backup of this carcinogen (called acetyl aldehyde). In a nutshell, the more alcohol you drink, the more DNA damage you’re going to accumulate, which increases cancer risk. However, the resveratrol in red wine blocks this effect to some degree.
“It’s killing off the cells that have that damage,” says Sclafani, who adds that the best thing to do is to get resveratrol without the alcohol. Foods like raisins and peanuts naturally have high amounts of it.
“The bottom line is we think that certain foods that contain resveratrol are going to be beneficial to you because in the long run, it’s going to prevent cancer,” says Sclafani.