Prepared Foods November 15, 2004 enewsletter

Red wine may protect against the development of lung cancer in men, suggests new research, with each daily glass conferring additional benefit. No other type of alcohol seemed to have the same effect, the study found.

The researchers assessed the lifestyles of 132 patients with lung cancer and 187 patients requiring minor surgery at the same hospital in northwest Spain between 1999 and 2000. Their findings were published in Thorax.

Everyone was asked about their diet, smoking habits, occupation, and the type and quantity of alcohol they drank every day, including whether they drank red, white or rose wine.

Most of the patients were men and in their early 60s. Around one in three were ex-smokers, but almost 60% of the lung cancer patients were current smokers, compared with around one in four of the other patients. The lung cancer patients were also more likely to have worked in jobs putting them at risk of the disease.

One in four of the cancer patients did not drink, compared with almost one in five of the routine surgery patients. Patients with lung cancer also drank more spirits, but beer consumption was roughly the same.

Both groups drank similar amounts of wine at around 3.5 glasses a day, but just over a third of the lung cancer patients drank red wine, compared with over half of the other patients.

Compared with nondrinkers, each daily glass of red wine afforded 13% protection against lung cancer. Rose wine had no impact, and white wine seemed to have the opposite effect, although far fewer patients drank white wine. Neither beer nor sprits seemed to affect the development of cancer.

The results held true even after taking account of the amount of tobacco smoked, job type and the total quantity of alcohol consumed.

The authors said that the beneficial effects of red wine may be due to tannins, which have antioxidant properties, and resveratrol, which has been shown to stifle tumor development and growth in experimental research.