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A Shield Against Cancer

Wine also may protect against several forms of another common killer: cancer. It turns out that the same phenolic compounds that lower heart disease risk also may slow the growth of breast cancer cells, according to findings reported by scientists at the University of Crete in Greece in the June 2000 issue of Journal of Cellular Biochemistry. Phenols also were shown to suppress the growth of prostate cancer cells. And French scientists found evidence that an antioxidant in wine called resveratrol can put the brakes on the growth of liver cancer cells, according to a report in the July-August 2000 issue of Oncology Reports.

There also was a report that wine -- particularly red wine -- might help ward off oral cancer. Researchers from the University of Missouri School of Dentistry discovered that resveratrol and another antioxidant called quercetin may inhibit the growth of oral cancer cells. Their findings, published in the June 2000 Journal of the American Dental Association, note that red wine is loaded with a slew of other antioxidants that seem to boost its cancer-fighting abilities.

Stronger Bones and Sharper Minds

But perhaps the most startling news of all came in studies suggesting that moderate drinkers may cut their risk of osteoporosis -- age-related bone thinning related to calcium loss. A report in the American Journal of Epidemiology in April 2000 showed that women who drank 11 to 29 grams of alcohol a day -- the equivalent of one to three glasses of wine -- had greater bone mineral density, measured in the hip region of their thighbones, than nondrinkers or heavy drinkers. Bone mineral density is the measure physicians use to determine bone strength and resilience.

That news was quickly followed by an equally encouraging report in November in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Testing nearly 500 elderly women, researchers from Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., found that bone mineral density was 12% to 16% higher among moderate drinkers, compared with nondrinkers.

And women aren't the only ones who may benefit. In a study published in the journal Osteoporosis International in November 2000, Finnish scientists tested 143 men aged 54-63. Compared to nondrinkers, the men who enjoyed a glass or two of alcohol a day also showed signs of greater bone mineral density.

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