There is no single thing that can cause cancer, but instead it’s a combination of risks that aren’t caught by the immune system. Basically, cells replicate all the time, and sometimes there are errors. It’s the immune systems job to find those errors. When the immune system isn’t functioning optimally and mutated cells are allowed to grow uncontrolled… this can lead to cancer. There are a number of nutrients that appear to inhibit every stage of the tumor (initiation, promotion and progression) and the shining star of them is resveratrol. Research shows that a diet rich in the phytonutrient resveratrol can help reduce tumors and fight cancer at all stages. Resveratrol is produced by plants as a protection mechanism against naturally occurring bacteria and fungi. Resveratrol is found in the skin or outer leaf of the plants where it can be the most beneficial to the plant. This is why red wine is known to be so high in resveratrol as the skin of the grapes are used in the fermentation and wine making process.
How resveratrol reduces cancer risks
Here are the scientific details: feel free to skip this section if the science doesn’t excite you.
- The first risk or stage is tumor initiation. For example, a virus, or a compound that inactivates p53, activates tumor oncogenes or causes chromosomal change, creates a cell that is damaged. An initiation event must alter the DNA of a cell through mutation, deletion, insertion or rearrangement.
- The second stage is tumor promotion. A promoter can increase the replication of a cell by increasing damage, inflammation, hormonal signaling or irritation. This leads to an increased rate of replication and less time for DNA repair.
- Progression is the third stage. The tumor grows uncontrollably and is not suppressed by the immune system. Tumors alone can be dangerous but they are most serious if they metastasize; breaking away into the blood stream where they can potentially spread to other organs.
Research shows that a diet rich in the phytonutrient resveratrol can help decrease cancer risks at all stages.
Cells treated with resveratrol have been shown to have a significant decrease in oxidation and free radical activity, decreasing potential DNA damaging effects. In addition resveratrol possess the ability to inhibit topoisomerase enzymes, which are enzymes that control the changes in DNA structure. According to a study from 2011 published in Mutation Research, resveratrol protects against oxidative DNA damage in human white blood cells or lymphocytes.
In 2010 a study released in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology or FASEB, researchers from the University of Leicester found that a daily amount of resveratrol, equivalent to two glasses of red wine, can halve the rate of prostate and bowel tumors. They discovered that resveratrol inhibits the sphingosine kinase-1/sphingosine 1-phosphate (SphK1/S1P) pathway impairing tumor promotion and inflammation.
Resveratrol also inhibits breast cancer cells from growing by blocking the growth effects of estrogen. This discovery, also published in FASEB, in 2010, shows that resveratrol inhibits the proliferation of hormone resistant breast cancer cells. This has important implications for the treatment of women with breast cancer whose tumors eventually develop resistance to hormonal therapy.
In a new study released in eLife in 2014, researchers found that resveratrol is an inhibitor of interleukin 6 (IL-6), a pro-inflammatory protein that is part of the immune system; high levels of IL-6 are also associated with poor breast cancer patient survival. According to the study, resveratrol regulates IL-6 without stimulating cell proliferation by altering a number of co-regulators of the estrogen receptor.
In a study reported through the Journal of Surgical Research in 2013, resveratrol was found to make certain tumor cells more susceptible to radiation treatment. The study found that melanoma cells become more susceptible to radiation if they were treated first with resveratrol. Researchers observed that 44 percent of the tumor cells were killed when treated with resveratrol and when cancer cells were treated with a combination of both resveratrol and radiation, 65 percent of the tumor cells died.
Researchers from Lerner Research Institute in Cleveland have discovered that the combination of resveratrol and rapamycin, an immune system suppressor that also disrupts cell division, can have a tumor-suppressing effect on breast cancer cells that are resistant to rapamycin alone. They found that rapamycin-induced drug resistant breast cancers responded better to treatment after subjects had a glass of red wine or ate a bowl of boiled peanuts, which are also very high in resveratrol.
Eat food, not supplements
A report in the journal Cell Metabolism in 2012 found no health benefit from resveratrol in the 15 post-menopausal women they studied. The women took 75mg of resveratrol daily (which is equivalent to 8 liters of red wine!) and found zero metabolic differences from the control group. They hypothesized that some other compound may act synergistically with resveratrol to get the impact observed in other studies. Conclusion: eat more foods high in resveratrol… and that doesn’t mean drink an entire bottle of red wine daily, resveratrol is also found in dark chocolate, blueberries, cranberries, mulberries, peanuts and pistachios.