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Study: Grapes inhibit cancer growth

grapes January 10, 1997
Web posted at: 8:20 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- More good news for grape-lovers: The fruit of the vine may fight cancer.

Coming on the heels of studies that found red wine helps keep the heart healthy, researchers have discovered a substance in grapes that protects against cancer.

The study, published in this week's journal Science, found that the substance called resveratrol can block cancer during three major stages of development before a tumor appears.


"It's a very exciting lead in terms of cancer-chemo prevention," said John Pezzuto, leader of the research group behind the study at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

"It makes much more sense, I think, to try and block these steps and prevent the tumor," he added, "rather than waiting until you see a tumor."

Resveratrol was discovered after hundreds of tests in search of anti-cancer compounds. The compound has been tested only in cell cultures and laboratory animals.


In an 18-week study of mice, doses of resveratrol reduced the number of skin tumors by up to 98 percent compared with skin cancers on control mice.

Resveratrol is found in 70 different plants, including mulberries and peanuts, but grapes and grape products are the richest source. All wines have some resveratrol, Pezzuto said, but the highest concentration is in red wine.

Drinking wine not the answer


Pezzuto emphasized that the key to good health does not lie at the bottom of a wine bottle. In fact, to match the daily intake the mice received, one would have to drink the equivalent of five gallons of wine a day.

Pezzuto suggested the study, instead, suggests a diet loaded with fruits and vegetables as a defense against cancer.

Phyllis Bowen, a registered dietitian, praised the study's results, saying it provided quality preventative cancer measures.

Dr. Michael J. Wargovich, a cancer researcher at M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston, said the discovery of resveratrol "really hits a home run in the range of activity it has against cancer." The finding, he said, also suggests that there may be even more powerful compounds in other natural foods.

Correspondent Linda Ciampa contributed to this report.  

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