Prepared Foods May 10, 2005 enewsletter

Drinking whiskey can help protect against cancer, a conference of international scientists heard.

Researchers have long hailed the anti-cancer properties of red wine due to its antioxidant content. Delegates at the EuroMedLab 2005 conference in Glasgow have now been told that whiskey contains significantly higher levels of a powerful antioxidant that kills cancer cells.

However, Cancer Research UK warned that "hitting the bottle" was not the best way to boost protection against cancer.

Dr. Jim Swan, an independent consultant to the worldwide drinks industry, discussed the art and science of whiskey distilling, as well as its possible health benefits.

"There has been much in the news about the health benefits of antioxidants in red wine.

"By contrast, very little has been said about malt whiskey distillery science.

"However, research has shown that there are even greater health benefits to people who drink single malt whiskies.

"Why? Single malt whiskies have more ellagic acid than red wine."

Swan said that ellagic acid is a highly effective "free radical scavenger" that actually "absorbs" or "eats up" rogue cells that occur in the body during eating.

"The free radicals can break down the DNA structure of our existing cells, which then leads to the risk of the body making replacement rogue cancer cells.

"So, whether you indulge in the odd tipple, or you are a serious connoisseur, whiskey can protect you from cancer and science proves it," he said.

Dr. Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, said the charity was "very concerned" that whiskey was being promoted as a cancer prevention agent in the absence of population data to support it.

"On the contrary, there is considerable data documenting the link between drinking excess alcohol and the increased risk of a number of cancers, particularly in smokers," she said.

"Ellagic acid is a powerful antioxidant, but that does not mean it is necessary to hit the bottle.

"There is an abundance of this acid in soft fruits, and the charity suggests this as a much healthier way of increasing antioxidant intake and contributing toward eating the recommended intake of five portions of fruit and vegetables a day."