Wine is Fine
A glass a day benefits your skin and health

By Shelley Burns

Originally published in Skin Deep, November/December 2009. Copyright 2009. Associated Skin Care Professionals. All right reserved.

We've all heard the age-old saying, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." What might be more appealing, however, is to replace that apple with a glass of wine.

Research shows wine, in combination with other sun protective measures like wearing sunscreen, may reduce the risk of skin cancer. One study showed a moderate intake of wine decreased occurrences of actinic keratoses--precancerous skin tumors.

The ingredient in wine that lends itself to this powerful benefit is resveratrol, an antioxidant found in grape skins. Its role is to fight disease and fungus on grapes during the rainy season. Its role in the human body is very different--it helps starve cancer cells.

How Does It Work?
Resveratrol inhibits the action of nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kB), a protein that feeds cancer cells and causes them to self-destruct. This destruction is called apoptosis. Resveratrol has been shown to significantly inhibit ultraviolet B-mediated (UVB) increases in skin thickness and swelling. Such thickness and swelling promote tumors and the activation of rapid cell division. Rapid cell division can hasten the onset of cancer.

The antioxidant resveratrol is found in the greatest concentration in grape skins, as much as 0.05-0.10 milligrams per gram of fruit. One serving of red grapes (approximately 160 grams) has an estimated 1.25-2.4 milligrams of resveratrol. Red wine will have greater concentrations of resveratrol since skins stay on the fruit longer in wine production than they do with white wine. A 5-ounce glass of red wine has 0.29-1.89 milligrams; white wine has 0.01-0.27 milligrams.

The study on actinic keratoses showed a half glass of wine daily reduced their occurrence by 27 percent. Other research suggests a glass of wine three to four times weekly can block NF-kB from nourishing cancer cells. Of course, as with many things, moderation is key. In this case, too much wine can actually increase the risk of developing cancer.

For those who prefer not to drink wine, resveratrol is also available as a nutritional supplement with a suggested starting dose of 200 milligrams.

Other choices include peanuts, which have 0.01-0.26 milligrams per 180 gram serving and dark chocolate with 0.14-0.19 milligrams per 180 grams. Blueberries, cranberries, and raspberries also contain resveratrol, though in far lesser amounts.

Research on resveratrol underway now is exploring its role in preventing Alzheimer's disease and heart disease, and promoting healthy blood sugar levels. So, raise a glass of red wine to your health and reap its powerful benefits. Sante!

Shelley Burns, a doctor of naturopathic medicine, completed studies at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine and has certification in complementary and integrative medicine from Harvard University. She can be reached at the Scienta Health Centre at 416-222-5880 or

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