A new health study from Denmark should go down well with wine lovers. A team of researchers in Copenhagen found that wine drinkers, no matter what their level of consumption, had a lower risk of gastric cancer than teetotalers or beer and spirits drinkers.
"Risk of gastric cancer seemed to decrease with increasing wine intake," wrote the authors in the June issue of the European Journal of Cancer Prevention.
The scientists, headed by noted wine-and-health researcher Morten Grønbæk of the National Institute of Public Health in Copenhagen, estimated that one's risk of stomach cancer is reduced by up to 40 percent for each glass of wine consumed per day.
The results may be attributed to several factors, the researchers explained. Previous research has found that wine and beer help wipe out Heliobacter pylori, a bacteria that is associated with peptic ulcers and gastric cancer. Certain chemicals abundant in wine, such as the polyphenol resveratrol, may contribute to an overall anticancer effect. Furthermore, wine has been reported to increase gastric activity, which may play a role in decreasing the activity of carcinogens in the stomach.
The research team examined the records of more than 28,000 people who had participated in three earlier, larger, long-term health studies in Copenhagen that recorded, among other things, incidences of gastric cancer, alcohol consumption patterns and other in-depth lifestyle data. During those studies, 122 cases of gastric cancer were recorded. Grønbæk's team reached their conclusions by cross-referencing participants' health status with their drinking habits.
When compared with nondrinkers, the participants who drank one to six glasses of wine per week had a 24 percent lower risk of gastric cancer. (A glass was defined as about 4 to 5 ounces.) The risk was around 35 percent less for the people who drank seven to 13 glasses of wine weekly. And those who drank more than 13 servings of wine per week showed an 84 percent lower risk than nondrinkers, although the authors noted that the number of people who consumed that much was quite small.
The scientists found no significant reductions in risk for beer or spirits drinkers or nondrinkers.
The team cautioned that the 40 percent per-glass risk reduction is simply a ballpark calculation. "I think it is necessary to be aware that the estimate per glass of wine per day was based on data where very few were drinking more than 13 drinks per week," said Katrine Albertsen, a spokeswoman at the National Institute of Public Health. "In other words, [one] should be very careful about extrapolating the results to an intake much higher than the actual intake in the study."
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