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Attention men: the benefits of red wine, from the Harvard Men’s Health Watch

Researchers have found that men who drink an average of four to seven glasses of red wine per week are only 52% as likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer as those who do not drink red wine, reports the June 2007 issue of Harvard Men’s Health Watch. In addition, red wine appears particularly protective against advanced or aggressive cancers.

Researchers in Seattle collected information about many factors that might influence the risk of prostate cancer in men between ages 40 and 64, including alcohol consumption. At first the results for alcohol consumption seemed similar to the findings of many earlier studies: There was no relationship between overall consumption and risk. But the scientists went one step further by evaluating each type of alcoholic beverage independently. Here the news was surprising—wine drinking was linked to a reduced risk of prostate cancer. And when white wine was compared with red, red had the most benefit. Even low amounts seemed to help, and for every additional glass of red wine per week, the relative risk declined by 6%.

Why red wine? Doctors don’t know. But much of the speculation focuses on chemicals—including various flavonoids and resveratrol—missing from other alcoholic beverages. These components have antioxidant properties, and some appear to counterbalance androgens, the male hormones that stimulate the prostate.

Many doctors are reluctant to recommend drinking alcohol for health, fearing that their patients might assume that if a little alcohol is good, a lot might be better. The Harvard Men’s Health Watch notes that men who enjoy alcohol and can drink in moderation and responsibly may benefit from a lower risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and cardiac death.

Also in this issue of the Harvard Men's Health Watch

  • Peptic ulcers and bacterial infections
  • Preventing diabetes: Understanding and diagnosing the disease
  • Red wine and prostate cancer
  • On call: No-flush niacin
  • On call: Blood pressure in both arms

More Harvard Health News »


About Harvard Health Publications

Harvard Health Publications publishes four monthly newsletters--Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Women's Health Watch, Harvard Men's Health Watch, and Harvard Heart Letter--as well as more than 50 special health reports and books drawing on the expertise of the 8,000 faculty physicians at Harvard Medical School and its world-famous affiliated hospitals.