Red wine and radiation

Japan’s nuclear power disaster focuses attention on dangers of radiation. Wine rushes to the rescue.

Many studies indicate moderate amounts of red wine help reduce effects of radiation exposure. Key ingredient is antioxidant resveratrol found in red wine. Findings have meaning for people undergoing radiation treatment and people exposed to radiation in the work place or through industrial accidents such as the Japanese crisis.

Resveratrol appears to provide these benefits:

• Makes cancer cells more sensitive to chemotherapy by hampering proteins that resist treatment.

• Injures energy source of cancer cells and decreases their ability to function.

• Triggers cancer cell death. (Woohoo!)

In some patients undergoing radiation therapy, skin toxicity effects of radiation were reduced up to 75 percent with moderate red wine consumption. Studies showed especially encouraging results for women undergoing treatments for breast cancer.

Other studies show antioxidants in red wine actually destroy cancer cells. Resveratrol appears to target cancer cells energy sources, making it a further ally in a radiation treatment regimen.

An Italian researcher noted: “If wine can prevent radiation-induced toxicity, it also has the potential to enhance the therapeutic benefit.”

All well and good, but there are caveats. Studies are promising, not conclusive, and they don’t invite a “bottle-a-day kills cancer, yea-hey” mantra.

One head of research cautioned: “In the case of women undergoing breast cancer radiotherapy, we’re talking one glass of wine a day, thus a very low dose.”

Still, fabulous news for wine lovers.


• Robert Oatley Tempranillo. Fruit-driven, silky, cherries galore. Australia. $15

• Argie Andes Torrontes. Honeysuckle nose, peach, apricot and green apple on long finish. Argentina. $16

• Seghesio Zinfandel. Baked bread and dark berries, peppers, creamy oak. Sonoma. $24

• Schug Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast. Cranberries and cherries; racy acidity. California. $26