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Health Benefits and Risks of Drinking Wine for Mesothelioma Patients

The benefits and risks of drinking any type of alcohol have been hotly debated for years, but when discussed in connection with cancer the discussion gets even livelier. There is evidence on both sides that indicate wine can have positive health benefits and negative health consequences. Some studies show an increased risk of developing cancer, while others show that compounds in red wine in particular may help make chemotherapy treatments more effective in patients with mesothelioma.

If you are living with mesothelioma, talk to your medical team about drinking and wine. If you have never been a wine drinker before, the evidence of positive benefits is not strong enough to warrant starting. On the other hand, if you enjoy an occasional glass of wine, you may need to weigh risks against some actual positive benefits.


Health Benefits of Drinking Wine

One of the most well studied benefits of moderate wine intake is good heart health. Evidence from research connects moderate drinking of red wine in particular with lower incidence of cardiovascular disease. The compound that is suspected of conferring this benefit is called resveratrol and it can be found in the skins of red grapes. Studies show that red wine may help improve heart health by raising levels of HDL, or healthy, cholesterol, reducing the risk of blood clots, and preventing artery damage caused by LDL, or bad, cholesterol.

Other compounds found in red wine, in addition to resveratrol, that may provide some health benefits, are catechin and quercetin. These are compounds known as polyphenols and may act as antioxidants in the body, meaning they prevent the formation of dangerous free radicals that can cause damage. These substances may also reduce inflammation. A lot of studies have been done with these compounds, but not many in humans. In cell cultures they have been shown to extend lifespans, prevent or treat neurodegenerative diseases, and even inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

Health Risks of Drinking Wine

Wine, like any type of alcoholic drink, contains ethanol, and ethanol is toxic to human cells. It turns out that drinking alcohol can have a lot of negative health impacts, but these mostly apply to excessive drinking—more than one drink per day for women and more than two per day for men. Excessive drinking is liked with injuries, accidents, violence, alcohol poisoning, and risky and dangerous behaviors.

Long-term health risks associated with drinking too much include heart disease, liver disease, digestive problems, high blood pressure, cognitive difficulties, dementia, depression, anxiety, and addiction. Long-term excessive drinking has also been associated with an increased risk for certain types of cancer: breast, mouth, esophagus, liver, colon, and throat cancers. Most recently, white wine was connected with an increased risk of melanoma.

Antioxidants and Cancer

Antioxidants are compounds, often found naturally in foods, that prevent or slow down damage in cells. They do this by interacting with free radicals, highly-reactive compounds in the body that damage cells. Some of this damage may include damage to genetic material, which ultimately may increase the risk of cancer. Fruits and vegetables are particularly high in antioxidants, and that includes the grapes that make wine. Red wine has especially high levels of these compounds.

Studies have shown in cells and in laboratory animals that increasing the intake of antioxidants can prevent the kind of damage that is associated with cancer. The results from similar studies with humans have been more mixed. Some studies showed that supplementing the diet with antioxidants had no effect on cancer risk, while others showed that there were some benefits and lowered risks.

Red Wine and Mesothelioma

One study of wine and resveratrol and their effects on cancer was very promising for mesothelioma patients. This study looked specifically at this type of cancer cells. The researchers found that resveratrol inhibited the growth of malignant mesothelioma cells through a specific interaction with a protein found in those cells. The study included the administration of resveratrol to laboratory mice with mesothelioma and the results were that tumor growth was suppressed.

Another exciting study showed that combining resveratrol with the chemotherapy drug cisplatin made the traditional treatment more effective in mesothelioma cells. No chemotherapy drug is perfectly efficient at killing cancer cells, but when combined with resveratrol the results were improved. Researchers hope that their success will lead to a better treatment, but whether drinking red wine while undergoing chemotherapy is helpful is not known.

Grape Seed’s Effect on Cancer Cells

Resveratrol and other antioxidants from the red grape’s skin are not the only players in the war against cancer. The extract of grape seeds has also been shown to have anti-cancer effects in studies. Grape seed extract has been shown to reduce the risk of skin cancer and to kill colon cancer cells. The extract has also been proven to either kill or slow the growth of cancer cells in breast cancer, prostate cancer, and other types.

Drinking Wine – Positive Effects on Mental and Social Health

Drinking alcohol in excess is associated with negative psychological effects. On the other hand, moderate drinking of any type of alcohol, including wine, is associated with a lot of benefits. These social and psychological benefits may be especially useful for someone struggling with a terrible type of cancer like mesothelioma. One important benefit of moderate drinking is stress relief. Patients with cancer often live with a great deal of stress, and moderate, controlled wine drinking may help reduce stress.

Moderate drinking has also been found to reduce tension and depression and to increase feelings of happiness, and an overall carefree sense. It also seems to help improve social health. This is likely due to the fact that moderate and light drinkers typically drink with friends or family at special gatherings. Being more social and drinking moderately and talking with friends and family could be a positive type of support for someone living with mesothelioma.

Only Drink with Your Doctor’s Permission

There are a number of potential benefits of drinking wine, especially red wine, and there may even be reason to believe that new cancer treatments will be developed from some of the compounds found in wine. However, there are a lot of negative risks too. If you are a mesothelioma patient and you are not a regular drinker, experts say that there is no reason to start drinking now. The proven and potential benefits are not strong enough to take on the potential risks of drinking, especially if you are in poor health or undergoing treatment.

If you are living with mesothelioma, take heart from the advances that are being made to connect wine with controlling or slowing the growth of cancer cells and tumors, but do not start drinking unless you have cleared it with your medical team. Moderate drinking is generally considered low-risk, but there may be some important reasons why the risks may be higher for you. Your doctor and the rest of your medical team can tell you if a glass of wine with friends would be positive and beneficial for you, or if there would be too many risks. There may even be some dangerous interactions with the medications you take. Wine may be a delicious drink with health benefits for some people, and potential cancer cures as well, but it is not for everyone.

Page edited by Dave Foster

Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available.

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