The realm of wine and health research entered uncharted territory with a recent paper assessing the association between alcohol consumption and pituitary gland tumors. Analyzing data from three major studies, researchers found a substantial reduction in risk of developing pituitary adenoma among moderate wine drinkers.
Adenomas, which are benign, non-cancerous tumors, can cause headaches, visual impairment and other serious symptoms when their growth puts pressure on nearby nerves beneath the brain. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 10,000 pituitary adenomas are diagnosed each year, and as many as 1 in 4 people may have undiagnosed pituitary tumors.
The paper, published in Cancer Causes & Control and authored by researchers from Harvard University and Brigham and Women's Hospital, was supported by data from three cohort studies: Nurses' Health Study (NHS), Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS) and Nurses' Health Study II (NHSII). The cohorts totaled 290,000 participants, mostly women, aged 25 to 75, and data was collected every four years starting in 1980 (NHS), 1986 (NHSII) and 1991 (HPFS).
According to co-author Dr. Meir Stampfer, the results showed a 30 to 40 percent reduced risk of pituitary adenoma among moderate wine drinkers (one to two glasses per day) compared to non-drinkers. The same results were not indicated among beer or spirits drinkers.
The authors write that the relationship may be explained by wine’s antioxidant content, and specifically referenced wine’s reputation for promoting vascular health, including “lower risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, kidney cancer, and all-cause mortality.”
However, due to the observational nature of the study, its limited demographic (mostly women already in the healthcare system), the frequency with which pituitary adenoma go undiagnosed, and the lack of pre-existing research, it’s too soon to draw any conclusions. “Nothing in our study should be the cause for any behavior change,” Dr. Stampfer told Wine Spectator. “Mainly, we hope this sheds some light on the causes of this common condition. But wine lovers could take comfort that they are decreasing risk of pituitary adenoma.”
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