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The Wine Guy: Don't forget to take your vitamin Q

The Wine Guy
with Anthony Scarano

Best of The Wine Guy

From Jan. 5, 2006

A miracle compound produced by the body when one drinks wine halts the spread of deadly cancer. The cancer-stopping antioxidant is a unique byproduct called quercetin, which is produced when wine mixes with intestinal bacteria.

Quercetin, a flavonoid, occurs naturally in red grapes, apples, onions, garlic, broccoli, squash and black tea. However, because of the immediate chemical reaction it creates when one drinks wine, the beverage seems to deliver quercetin faster and better than other foods.

Researchers have found that quercetin can be very beneficial to health, and their test results have been dramatic. In animal studies, rats that received quercetin in their diets had 25 percent to 30 percent fewer breast cancers than a control group of rodents that ate a normal diet.

In some parts of China where people eat a lot of quercetin-rich vegetables such as garlic and onions, the people have one fourth as many cases of stomach cancer as the rest of China’s population. Researchers with the U.S. National Cancer Institute found the lifesaving chemical appears to prevent cancer and halt its spread by aiding in the repair of damaged cells — the precursor to many types of cancer.

The cell-saving effect of quercetin is slightly different from the benefits provided by beta carotene and vitamins A and C. These compounds work by halting the action of cancer-causing chemicals, whereas quercetin cleans up damaging free radicals and has a direct impact on cell health. It is also good for the heart.

Dr. Torrence Leighton from the University of California-Berkeley believes quercetin plays a dramatic role in blocking cancer growths from a single diseased cell to an actual tumor. If the chemical can be harnessed to attack cancer in the very early stages, he wrote, it could save many thousands of lives.

Wine, both red and white, is not a new weapon in the fight against disease. Experts in natural medicine have long believed wine — the world’s oldest medicine — to be a remedy for many ailments. Wine stimulates the appetite of people suffering from chronic illnesses or emotional disturbances, and the iron content in Port and full-bodied red and white table wines have been known to help prevent and cure anemia. In the care of convalescents, especially the old, wine can help restore nutritional balance, relieve tensions and serve not only as a gentle sedative but as an important euphoric agent.

Anthony Scarano is not a doctor. He is an 88-year-old Evergreen Park resident, winemaker and certified naturopath. Suggestions in this space are solely the opinions of Mr. Scarano based on years of independent study and personal experience, and may not be beneficial to health. Wine should be consumed in moderation, as overindulgence may be harmful to health.