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Chemical in red grapes may help prevent bowel cancer

Resveratrol, a chemical found in red grapes, is more effective in smaller doses at preventing bowel cancer in mice than high doses, according to new research published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Previous research looked at high doses of purified resveratrol to study its potential to prevent cancer.  This is the first study to look at the effects of a lower daily dose - equivalent to the amount of resveratrol found in one large (approx. 250ml) glass of red wine – comparing it with a dose 200 times higher.

Results from bowel cancer-prone mice given the smaller dose showed a 50 per cent reduction in tumour size while the high dose showed a 25 per cent reduction. Lower doses of resveratrol were twice as effective as the higher dose in stopping tumours growing, although this effect was only seen in animals fed a high-fat diet. Samples of tumours from bowel cancer patients given different doses of resveratrol showed that even lower doses can get into cancer cells and potentially affect processes involved in tumour growth.

Karen Brown, professor of translational cancer research in the Department of Cancer Studies said: “For the first time, we’re seeing that less resveratrol is more. This study shows that low amounts may be better at preventing tumours than taking a high dose.

“The same might be true for other plant-derived chemicals and vitamins that are also being studied for cancer prevention. There should be more research looking at the effects of low doses. But this is early laboratory research and the next stage is for clinical trials to confirm whether resveratrol has the same effects in people at high risk of bowel cancer.”

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