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Nutrition

Get excited about nutrition, and learn as you go with these information-packed resources on a wide variety of nutrition-centric topics! Our bistroMD experts review the importance of the macronutrients protein, fat, and carbohydrates, as well as how to make them work most efficiently for you.

Does Drinking Red Wine Reduce Cancer Risk?

Current research suggests red wine may contribute to cancer prevention. With the back and forth on whether drinking wine is good or bad for you, we thought we'd set the record straight.

Does Drinking Red Wine Reduce Cancer Risk?


After alcohol is consumed, the body breaks it down for easier processing, especially in the liver. When alcohol is metabolized, acetaldehyde and acetate are produced. Although acetaldehyde is short-lived in the body, it has the potential to cause some major damage. Acetaldehyde is the toxic culprit associated with alcohol intake and is a carcinogen, a substance that can be cancer-causing. Not-so-new research concludes that alcohol consumption can contribute to a variety of cancers, specifically cancers of the head and neck, liver, colon or rectum, and breast. But now a glass of red wine a day keeps the cancer away? Current research suggests red wine may contribute to cancer prevention.

The Cancer-Fighting Properties of Wine

Resveratrol naturally occurs in the skin and seeds of grapes, thus a component in wine. Resveratrol is an admirable antioxidant, preventing cells against damage. Antioxidants have been suggested to reduce the risk of diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Some research suggests that red wine drinkers have the lowest incidence of alcohol-related cancers. Further research advocates wine drinkers have a lower risk of cancer and heart disease compared to non-wine drinkers. Other researchers are weary on contributing red wine as cancer-fighting, as many studies use resveratrol in its pure form and in mice, rather than the actual wine.

When choosing wine, go with the red. When compared to white wine produced from green grapes, red grapes and wine contain more resveratrol which contributes to more antioxidants and anti-cancer properties. Along with the type of wine, the amount should be cautioned as well. It is important to keep servings and portions in check, as too much alcohol can lead to negative consequences. Conclusive evidence also suggests too much alcohol can result in the development of cancer. As a reference, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for men is two servings per day and for women, the RDA is one serving per day. When it comes to portions, it matters most on the actual amount of wine, not the glass or bottle size. The typical wine bottle is approximately 25 ounces. One red wine serving is five ounces, or a fifth of the bottle, and not the bottle's entirety.

The Bigger Picture

When looking at the bigger picture, cancer has multiple risk factors. Although some steps can be taken for cancer prevention, some risk factors are grounded and unchangeable. For instance, the metabolism of alcohol varies from person to person based on their genetic makeup. Some individuals lack the key genes and enzymes needed to breakdown alcohol and can ultimately cause havoc and damage to the body.

All-in-all, drinking a glass of red wine per day may reduce the risk of cancer. Along with choosing red wine over white wine, it is important to be weary on the amount consumed. Embracing a wholesome lifestyle filled with a balanced diet, physical activity, and smoke cessation can reduce the risk of a variety of health conditions and diseases.

References: http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/AA72/AA72.htm

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