A researcher who found that wine drinkers are less likely to develop colon cancer than nondrinkers has amended his results to say that significant protection is gained only by those who drink mainly red wine.
Joseph Anderson M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Stony Brook University in New York and a practicing oncologist, presented the updated research at the American College of Gastroenterology's annual scientific meeting in late October. "It is an extension of the previous study," he said. "In this study, I examined white versus red, where I previously examined them as a whole, i.e., wine versus beer."
In the earlier study, Anderson examined 2,291 patients, who reported their drinking habits. He found that moderate wine drinkers were 45 percent less likely to develop colon cancer than nondrinkers, while beer and spirits drinkers were found to be at a greater risk. In the updated research, 3.4 percent of red-wine drinkers had abnormal colon growths, compared with nearly 9 percent of white-wine drinkers and almost 10 percent of abstainers. Anderson found that the results translated to a 12 percent lower risk for white-wine drinkers and a 68 percent lower risk for red-wine drinkers.
Anderson is not absolutely sure if the results are due to the different chemical compositions of white and red wine or to variations in the drinkers' lifestyle choices. Although they were similar, he said, "The lifestyles of the red and white [drinkers] were not the same. They differed in smoking, for example." Both groups tended to drink seven glasses of wine a week and exercised more and ate greater amounts of fruit and vegetables per day than nondrinkers. However, 17 percent of white-wine drinkers were smokers, compared to 11 percent of red-wine drinkers. Also, gender may be a factor, Anderson said, since 65 percent of white wine drinkers were women, compared to only 39 percent of red wine drinkers.
But Anderson is leaning toward resveratrol, a compound abundant in red wine, as being mainly responsible for the differences among the drinkers. Resveratrol, which is naturally found in the skins of grapes, essentially helps plant cells repair normal damage, but it has also been shown to have numerous potential health benefits for humans, such as preventing cancer cells from growing and reproducing. Red wine has greater amounts of the compound than white wine, since red wine is fermented in contact with grape skins for a much longer period.
Anderson is confident that the new research shows that resveratrol is most likely responsible for the protection against colon cancer. "The idea was that if wine was beneficial, it is the resveratrol which is higher in red than white," he said. "This is exactly what we observed."
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