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HealthWatch: One Wine Compound Fights Fat; Another Bone Cancer

Also, a Danish study finds alcohol can reduce risk of an autoimmune disorder

Jacob Gaffney, Esther Mobley
Posted: October 4, 2013

A new study strengthens previous evidence that the red-wine compound resveratrol can block human fat cells from developing, thereby mitigating obesity. A polyphenol produced by plants to defend against pathogens like bacteria and fungi, resveratrol is absorbed into wine from grape skins. Past studies examining the compound's impact on obesity have tested by culturing human fat cells in a lab. For this study, published in the Journal of Physiology and Biochemistry, a team of researchers at Paul Sabatier University in France and the University of the Basque Country in Spain surgically removed human mature adipocytes—fat cells—from overweight individuals just hours before their analysis. Study lead author Saioa Gomez Zorita noted that obese individuals process fats differently than others.

Zorita and her colleagues incubated the human fat cells with varying doses of resveratrol, then measured their triglyceride breakdown, the process by which fatty acids get released into the bloodstream. "Our experiments show that resveratrol impaired the entry of glucose into fat cells," explained Christian Carpéné, a co-author. They believe resveratrol can both prevent accumulation of new fat and help break down existing fat. Carpéné warned, however, that the effective doses of resveratrol in their experiment were larger than could safely be consumed through wine and that it's still unknown how the human body metabolizes resveratrol.

De-alcoholized Wine Stops Bone Cancer

There is evidence that red wine can reduce the risk of some cancers, but a team of scientists is trying to determine why. Researchers based in Avellino, Italy, noted that past research on wine's potential anticancer abilities has focused primarily on resveratrol. They decided to try something new. According to a study published in an August issue of Food and Chemical Toxicology, the team exposed freeze-dried, de-alcoholized red wine with a high concentration of gallic acid, another polyphenol, to an aggressive form of bone cancer.

It worked: The process induced tumor cell death. But not in the way they thought. "We found that cell death induced by red wine proceeded through a mechanism independent from its antioxidant activity," the authors explained in their article. Instead, the wine impacted protein activities that regulate cell behavior, and in this case, caused the cancer cell to kill itself. The scientists plan to up the gallic acid concentration in future experiments in hope they can control the growth of other malignant cancer cell lines.

Moderate Drinkers Less Likely to Have Graves’ Disease

New research finds that moderate drinking reduces the risk of developing Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder that is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. The condition, which affects approximately 10 million people, frequently causes the thyroid to enlarge to twice its normal size, speeding up bodily functions, including metabolism. It can also cause bulging and pain in the eyes. The study, published in Clinical Endocrinology, observed the populations of two districts in Denmark that were already enrolled in a three-year iodine deficiency investigation. Within this group, researchers identified 272 new diagnoses of Graves’ disease and 1,018 control subjects, all of whom were asked to log their alcohol consumption.

Those who abstained from drinking were considerably more likely to have Graves’ disease than those who drank alcohol regularly. While only 12 percent of the control group abstained from drinking, 28 percent of the patients with Graves’ disease did not drink. Moreover, subjects who drank moderately (defined as 1 to 2 glasses per day) had Graves’ disease in even smaller numbers than those who drank minimally (defined as 1 to 2 glasses per week). The study’s authors write, “One can now add Graves’ disease to the list of autoimmune diseases—such as lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, and autoimmune diabetes—known to be prevented by the effect of alcohol.” The type of alcohol consumed did not appear to make a difference.

Moderate Alcohol Consumption Gains Favor in Italy

A group of prominent nutrition scientists in Italy are going on the record to say they support the moderate consumption of alcohol. It's a big step, as daily alcohol guidelines in some European countries have become increasingly opposed to alcohol, even in moderation. The message from 36 scientists gained the approval of 19 separate general medicine and cardiology societies. "In healthy adults and in the elderly, spontaneous consumption of alcoholic beverages within 30 grams of alcohol daily [up to two drinks] for men and 15 for women is to be considered acceptable and does not deserve intervention by the primary care physician," reads the consensus statement, published in the medical journal Nutrition, Metabolism, & Cardiovascular Disease.

Some question, however, why the group recommended that doctors not advise abstainers to start drinking without citing study results supporting that conclusion. "The data they present shows again and again that abstinence, compared to moderate consumption, is a major risk factor for heart disease, obesity, metabolic syndrome and other diseases," said Andrew Waterhouse, professor of viticulture and enology at the University of California at Davis.

Lynn Gretkowski
california, usa —  October 5, 2013 1:51am ET
The first study remarks may misrepresent the actual scientific implications of what the study sets out to accomplish: commenting that 'resveratrol fights fat' in an article may lead the reader who is a non-scientist to believe that it is a weight control agent.

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