Scientists claim red wine may help to prevent bowel cancer

Two glasses of red wine per day may help to prevent the growth of cancerous tumours in the bowel according to researchers at Leicester University, whose findings will be presented by Professor Karen Brown to over 100 experts from around the world at a conference taking place at the university today.

The key to this cancer-prevention is held in a compound contained within the skin of grapes called ‘resveratrol’; which is also found in various other sources such as peanuts and berries. Resveratrol has garnered much attention over the years for its apparent anti-aging and disease-combating benefits and but this study represents the first genuine scientific evidence that resveratrol helps to prevents cancer.

Past research has indicated that the compound can also reduce the risk of heart disease by stopping the oxidation of LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol, making it a lot harder for platelets to stick together and form the clots that may result in a heart attack. If that wasn’t enough, resveratrol is known prevent insulin resistance. This process occurs after insulin levels are sufficiently high over a sustained period of time to cause the body’s own sensitivity to the hormone to be reduced. Insulin resistance is a precursor to diabetes and can be caused by obesity, stress, pregnancy and because of the ‘metabolic syndrome’.

The researchers at Leicester University administered a daily dose of 5mg (the equivalent of two glasses of red wine) to mice, and to their amazement they discovered it halved the growth of bowel tumours.

Professor Brown, from the university’s cancer biomarkers and prevention group, commented on the study findings and said: “What has been amazing for us is to find that, in laboratory mice, a low dose of resveratrol, the equivalent of a big glass of red wine, was more effective than a larger dose in preventing tumours developing. However, we have also found it is most effective with a high-fat diet, and not a standard diet. We now need to do more work on how the chemical actually works in the body and how it works in human cells. It might be that it works differently in different people.”

John Mathers, Professor of Human Nutrition at Newcastle University, who was not part of the study, offered his views on the findings, saying: “There has been a lot of research carried out on resveratrol which has been tested using a variety of model organisms from yeast to mice. It has worked in some models but not in others. It is very difficult to translate model systems to humans which require a large amount of subjects to be convincing and it is very expensive. Resveratrol has a molecular and protective mechanism which helps cells to deal with damaged protein, such as ageing and cancer. It would be very nice to see this latest evidence, anything that can reduce cancer risk using a dietary molecule is potentially interesting.”

The next challenge for the researchers will be to conduct further laboratory tests in addition to a year-long clinical trial monitoring the effects of resveratrol being taken by patients most at risk of developing cancer.

Some clinical trials have shown that the compound is able to get to the prostate and bowel tissue, however further tests are required to determine what, if any, reaction occurs on patients and if it there are any interactions with other medications. In the trials, scientists will also decide appropriate doses of resveratrol when given in a tablet form.

Bowel cancer may also be known as rectal, colorectal or colon cancer, depending on where the cancer starts. In England it is the third most common type of cancer and in 2009 alone, it was reported there were 41,142 new cases of bowel cancer. Of these new cases, 18,431 cases were diagnosed in women and 22,711 cases were diagnosed in men. It is uncommon for those under the age of 40 to develop the cancer, with around 85% of new cases being diagnosed in people over the age of 65.

Factors that increase the risk of bowel cancer include: having an inactive lifestyle, smoking, heavy alcohol intake (over 4 units a day) and obesity. In addition, others at risk are those with a high intake of processed foods, red meat, low-fibre foods and high-fat foods.

Symptoms can be difficult to spot as they may be similar to less life-threatening conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome. However, if you experience them for longer than a few weeks, it is recommended you seek medical attention as soon as possible. Symptoms include: Blood in your faeces, the appearance of mucus in the faeces, inexplicable weight loss, persistent abdominal pain lasting longer than two weeks, severe constipation or diarrhoea lasting longer than two weeks and tiredness as a result of becoming anaemic from microscopic bleeding from the bowel.

If you have any of these symptoms and they are causing you concern, Medical Specialists Pharmacy advise that you visit your GP immediately. Your GP may want to check for bowel cancer by conducting a rectal examination to check for any abnormal changes at the lower end of the bowel. Another test your GP may want to refer you to is one called ‘faecal occult bloods’ (FOBs). Here, many samples of your faeces are scanned for any possible microscopic amounts of blood lost from a tumour. If a diagnosis is made, a ‘Dukes’ staging’ is given to the cancer to determine how it is likely to progress or conclude which is the best course of treatment to go for the patient.

If you are suffering with other stomach and bowel problems such as the previously mentioned irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or heartburn and indigestion, or acid reflux, why not visit the ‘stomach and bowel’ area of the Medical Specialists website. We have a huge range of products for these conditions, including the revolutionary new Symprove drink, as featured in the Daily Mail, the Daily Mirror, as well as HELLO! magazine. Symprove is helping millions in the fight against IBS and the delicious 500ml mango and passion fruit flavoured version is available from the Medical Specialists chemist shop for the low price of £19.93.

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