Sidebar Fifteen

Can Wine Fight Cancer?

One of nature's most potent cancer-fighting compounds, quercetin, has been isolated in red wine.

Research shows that quercetin, also found in onions and garlic, has the ability to block the action of the human oncogene (cancer gene) known as H-RAS and keep it from converting normal cells into cancerous ones.

According to research announced in 1991 and conducted at the University of California, Berkeley and at Georgetown University, quercetin is inactive as found in food, but is activated into its cancer-fighting form by fermentation or by bacteria in the human intestinal tract.

Epidemiological studies have linked high consumption of foods containing quercetin with lower incidences of stomach, intestine and other cancers.

"Quercetin is a power anti-cancer compound," said Terance Leighton, Professor of Biochemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, who led the study. "There is even some suggestion that compounds, such as quercetin and others, may be responsible for the reduced levels of coronary artery disease found among moderate wine consumers."

In a study conducted by researchers at Cornell University, the potential for wine to prevent cancer was demonstrated in laboratory mice. The investigators were studying the ability of ethyl carbamate (also known as urethane) to cause cancer. Since ethyl carbamate is present in trace amounts in some wines, they administered this substance to animals in several ways: in water, in plain alcohol, in white wine and in red wine. The animals receiving the ethyl carbamate in water and in alcohol ad higher levels of cancer than the control animals. Those receiving it in white wine actually had lower levels of cancer than the controls. Those receiving it in red wine had the lowest levels of all!

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