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Showing posts from October, 2010

Something new to chew on: Resveratrol chewing gum

My what a long way we have come since I first started lecturing and writing about wine and health a decade ago. For one, few had heard of resveratrol, the potent antioxidant in red wine, and many of those who had didn’t know how to pronounce it. Flash forward a few years and a few thousand research articles and now resveratrol is the flavor of the month, appearing in everything from diet pills to energy drinks. The discovery that it may activate the enzymes responsible for enhanced longevity normally associated with caloric deprivation catapulted resveratrol into the spotlight. Ads unabashedly tout it as the new fountain of youth. The latest version is a chewing gum, from a company called Gumlink A/S.

A few cautionary notes here, but there are also some good reasons why it might not be such a bad idea. Firstly, resveratrol hasn’t been able to explain all of the benefits associated with moderate wine consumption, and serious doubts have been advanced about whether it is truly capable o…

Wine and breast cancer: an update

With October being the annual exercise in breast cancer awareness, our attention turns to the ongoing issue of drinking and breast cancer risk. What we usually hear is the established advice that alcohol consumption in any form contributes to the risk of developing breast cancer, in a direct ratio of about one daily drink to a 10% increase. But if you have been following my posts here, you will know that the question of wine consumption and breast cancer is considerably more nuanced, and it remains entirely possible-even likely, in my analysis-that red wine decreases risk, in the right amounts. A recent study from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center here in Seattle, in collaboration with major cancer centers around the country, helps to shed some light on the subject.

But first we need to revisit the question of why alcohol could contribute to cancer in the first place. As I point out in my book, a scientifically provable basis for alcohol leading to the cellular changes that p…

Wine and breast cancer risk with BRCA mutation

One of the more significant developments in the understanding of breast cancer risk factors was the discovery of two inheritable genetic mutations, BRCA1 and BRCA2, that dramatically increase the lifetime risk of breast cancer. These mutations are aberrant forms of a class of genes called “tumor suppressors” so when they don’t function normally, cancers are more likely to develop and spread. (Tests are available for these mutations and many women with BRCA are opting for prophylactic mastectomy and reconstruction.)

Since alcohol consumption is generally regarded as a risk factor for breast cancer, it is important to know how it might affect women with BRCA. Given all of the confusion about whether wine consumption increases or decreases risk, it becomes even more important to know what to recommend. Surely, the knowledge of a high risk of cancer and not being able to have a glass of wine with dinner seems like double punishment. Fortunately a recent study helps to provide some guidan…