March 5, 2009

Daily Glass of Wine Good for the Esophagus

A glass of red or white wine a day might lower your risk for one of the fasting growing cancers around today.

In a study involving 953 men and women, researchers found a daily glass lowered the chances for Barrett's esophagus by 56 percent. Barrett's esophagus occurs when acid reflux damages the cells in the esophagus over time. The cells are transformed as they heal, and these transformed cells are more likely to turn into esophageal cancer. The incidence of the disease has grown markedly in the last 30 years, jumping 500 percent.

The study found no reduction in Barrett's among people who drank other forms of alcohol, suggesting there is something in wine that is having a protective effect. While researchers aren't sure what that is, they speculate it has something to do with the antioxidants in wine, which may be neutralizing the oxidative damage cause by acid reflux. Alternatively, the link may come from the fact that wine drinkers tend to consume food with their wine, minimizing the ill effects on the esophagus from alcohol.

So, should you drink a glass of wine a day to protect your esophagus? Perhaps, but it is only one strategy, report the researchers, who emphasize these results are part of a larger study on diet and esophageal cancer that found maintaining a normal weight and eating lots of fruits and vegetables are key to preventing the condition as well.

"My advice to people trying to prevent Barrett's esophagus is: Keep a normal body weight and follow a diet high in antioxidants and high in fruits and vegetables," study author  Douglas A. Corley, M.D., a Kaiser Permanente gastroenterologist, was quoted as saying. "We already knew that red wine was good for the heart, so perhaps here is another added benefit of a healthy lifestyle and a single glass of wine a day."

SOURCE: Gastroenterology, published online March 2, 2009


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