A new study published online in the Journal of Carcinogenesis has reported that laboratory mice fed the chemical resveratrol, a compound found naturally in red wine, developed tumors in the prostate at a much lower rate than mice fed on a normal diet. More importantly, the scientists believe that the research holds good promise for humans since the mice directly ingested a form of the chemical.
The researchers, from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), also found that resveratrol didn't harm other systems in the mice. This lack of toxicity makes resveratrol a prime candidate for use as a cancer-preventing dietary supplement. Few studies to date have examined the effects of resveratrol when ingested by mammals, or the tests tend to use large amounts of the chemical that would be unobtainable by drinking wine.
While resveratrol has shown promise as an anti-aging, anticancer agent, the "chemoprevention of prostate cancer has not yet been reported with resveratrol in animal models," the authors of the study wrote. "Chemoprevention and the use of dietary supplements without toxicity to reduce cancer risk are extremely pertinent."
The scientists used 82 mice in their experiment. Fifty-three mice served as a control group, while the other 29 were fed 625mg of resveratrol per kilogram of body weight, per day in addition to their regular diet. According to lead author Coral Lamartiniere, a researcher at the UAB department of pharmacology and toxicology, this amount of resveratrol is equal to drinking about one bottle of red wine each day.
At five weeks of age, the scientists started the resveratrol mice on the supplements, which were mixed in powder form into the standard chow. Daily blood tests were conducted to confirm the presence of resveratrol in the mice. All 29 mice showed levels of the red wine compound, and their behavior and appetite did not change notably over the next six months. After seven months, 23 percent of the control mice showed some form of prostate cancer, compared to only 3 percent of the resveratrol-fed mice. This is equal to an 87 percent lower risk, the researchers wrote, adding that for the resveratrol mice with prostate cancer, "the progression of prostate-tumor development was slowed down."
The scientists performed many more tests in order to determine the pathway resveratrol may take to serve as an anticancer substance. They concluded that resveratrol may work in a "direct biological effect on the prostate," indicating the possibility of a similar effect in humans.
According to the study, the American Cancer Society expects 27,050 male deaths from prostate cancer in 2007, making it second only to lung cancer. "Although we may not wipe out prostate cancer, we do hope to suppress the progression of prostate cancer so men can extend their lives and quality of life," the study said.
Lamartiniere added that men shouldn't drink a bottle of wine a day, as consumption at that level is hazardous, and that his team is planning to do more studies using lower doses of resveratrol, and even with other polyphenols found naturally in red wine. However, Lamartiniere, who has a family history of prostate cancer, has already taken the study results to heart. "I drink a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon every night and take resveratrol supplements every day," he said.