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With the season of over indulgence upon us, it is important to remember that increased estrogen levels in the bloodstream resulting from alcohol consumption can increase women’s risk of developing breast cancer and that this risk is directly related to the amount consumed. In the November 2, 2011 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association it was reported that:

  • Women having 3-6 drinks per week have a 15% increased risk of invasive breast cancer compared with non-drinkers.
  • The American Cancer Society also recommends that women have no more than one alcoholic drink per day, which may be a bit more difficult to do in the holiday season.

Despite this recommendation there could be a light at the end of the party tunnel; ingredients in red wine may help combat heart disease and some forms of cancer such as breast, prostate, thyroid and leukemia. While red wine is not considered a “health food,” a small amount can be part of healthy diet for some individuals. We encourage you to consult your health care provider about what is appropriate for you.

In December 2011, the online Journal of Women`s Health reported a study of pre-menopausal women who were asked to add 8 oz. of red wine to their daily diet for one month. A lowering of estrogen levels was seen as well as elevated testosterone levels. These changes are believed to be protective against breast cancer. More research is needed to determine whether the benefits arise from the alcohol or from the grapes themselves. Red grapes contain chemicals called polyphenols and while their action is not well understood, we know they have antioxidant properties that may help prevent the formation of cancer or suppress cancer development.

While a small amount of red wine may provide some health benefit, avoid overindulging this holiday season. A daily multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid every day is often recommended to offset the effects of alcohol on the body. Foods such as blueberries, red grapes, grape juice, peanuts and cranberries offer the beneficial effect of antioxidants without the risk of alcohol. A diet rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables also offers many protective disease fighting benefits.
Most important please remember that the key is balance during this busy holiday season. Strive to keep up a healthy diet and regular exercise.

If you are planning a celebration, making party appearances or even just staying in tonight, keep it merry with one of your healthy friends: merlot, cabernet, pinot noir or zinfandel.

Cheers, Brenda


Chen WY, etal”Moderate alcohol consumption during adult life, drinking patterns and breast cancer”JAMA ,2011;306:1884-1890.

Branunstein and Shufeil,” Moderate red wine drinking may help cut women`s breast cancer risk”, Journal of Women`s Health, Dec 7,2011( online journal). Published in print  April 2011.

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