Breast Cancer Risk: Red Wine vs. White Wine

Breast Cancer Risk: Red Wine vs. White Wine
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Modest lifestyle changes that include the avoidance of alcohol may cut the odds of breast cancer in half, but certain grapes appear to contain natural aromatase inhibitors that may undermine the ability of breast tumors to produce their own estrogen.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

After diagnosis, women with breast cancer may cut their risk of dying nearly in half—estrogen-receptor positive; estrogen receptor negative—just by instituting simple, modest lifestyle changes: five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day, and just like walking 30 minutes a day, six days a week.

But, what about preventing breast cancer in the first place? If you actually follow the advice of the official dietary guidelines for cancer prevention, does it actually reduce your risk of cancer?

If you manage your weight, eat more plant foods, less animal foods, less alcohol, and breastfeed if you’re a woman, based on the largest prospective study on diet and cancer in history, you may significantly lower your risk of breast cancer, endometrial cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer, kidney cancer, stomach cancer, UADT cancer—you do not want to get cancer in your UADT, believe me. No, that basically means oral cancer, as well as lower risk for liver cancer, esophageal cancer, and all cancers combined.

Of all the recommendations, the “Eat mostly foods of plant origin” appeared the most powerful. For example, a study in the UK found that in just one year in Britain, there were 14,902 excess cases of cancer caused by something they were exposed to ten years earlier. What was that something that ended up causing thousands of cancers? “Deficient intake of fruits and vegetables.” If that was instead some chemical spill or something, causing 14,000 cancers, people would be up in arms to ban it. But, instead, when that killer carcinogen is not eating your fruit and veg, as the Brits would say, it hardly gets anyone’s attention.

What if you throw in smoking, too? Researchers created a “healthy lifestyle index” defined by four things: #1, exercise; #2, a dietary shift away from the Standard American Diet high in meat, dairy, fat, and sugar towards a more prudent dietary pattern (for instance, green and yellow vegetables, beans, fruits); #3, avoidance of tobacco; #4, avoidance of alcohol. Young, women scoring higher on those four things may cut their odds of getting breast cancer in half, and older women may cut their odds of breast cancer 80%!

We’ve covered how even light drinking can increase breast cancer risk. But, for women who refuse to eliminate alcohol, which is less carcinogenic—red wine, or white?

Well, some studies, such as the Harvard Women’s Health Study, suggest less or even no risk from red wine. And, we may have just figured out why. Remember how mushrooms were the vegetable best able to suppress the activity of aromatase—the enzyme used by breast tumors to produce their own estrogen? Well, if you run the same human placenta experiments with fruit, strawberries get the silver, but grapes get the gold.

What kind of grapes? Well, those wimpy green grapes used to make white wine didn’t work, compared to those used for making red.  Bottom line, “red wine may serve as a nutritional [aromatase inhibitor], which may ameliorate the elevated breast cancer risk associated with [the] alcohol intake [in the red wine].”

But why accept any elevated risk, by instead just eating the grapes? And, if you do, chose ones with seeds, if you can, as they may work even better.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to walknboston via flickr; and Peggy Greb, André Karwath, and Scott Bauer, U.S. Department of Agriculture via Wikimedia.  Thanks to Maxim Fetissenko, PhD, and Laurie-Marie Pisciotta for their help with Keynote!

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

After diagnosis, women with breast cancer may cut their risk of dying nearly in half—estrogen-receptor positive; estrogen receptor negative—just by instituting simple, modest lifestyle changes: five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day, and just like walking 30 minutes a day, six days a week.

But, what about preventing breast cancer in the first place? If you actually follow the advice of the official dietary guidelines for cancer prevention, does it actually reduce your risk of cancer?

If you manage your weight, eat more plant foods, less animal foods, less alcohol, and breastfeed if you’re a woman, based on the largest prospective study on diet and cancer in history, you may significantly lower your risk of breast cancer, endometrial cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer, kidney cancer, stomach cancer, UADT cancer—you do not want to get cancer in your UADT, believe me. No, that basically means oral cancer, as well as lower risk for liver cancer, esophageal cancer, and all cancers combined.

Of all the recommendations, the “Eat mostly foods of plant origin” appeared the most powerful. For example, a study in the UK found that in just one year in Britain, there were 14,902 excess cases of cancer caused by something they were exposed to ten years earlier. What was that something that ended up causing thousands of cancers? “Deficient intake of fruits and vegetables.” If that was instead some chemical spill or something, causing 14,000 cancers, people would be up in arms to ban it. But, instead, when that killer carcinogen is not eating your fruit and veg, as the Brits would say, it hardly gets anyone’s attention.

What if you throw in smoking, too? Researchers created a “healthy lifestyle index” defined by four things: #1, exercise; #2, a dietary shift away from the Standard American Diet high in meat, dairy, fat, and sugar towards a more prudent dietary pattern (for instance, green and yellow vegetables, beans, fruits); #3, avoidance of tobacco; #4, avoidance of alcohol. Young, women scoring higher on those four things may cut their odds of getting breast cancer in half, and older women may cut their odds of breast cancer 80%!

We’ve covered how even light drinking can increase breast cancer risk. But, for women who refuse to eliminate alcohol, which is less carcinogenic—red wine, or white?

Well, some studies, such as the Harvard Women’s Health Study, suggest less or even no risk from red wine. And, we may have just figured out why. Remember how mushrooms were the vegetable best able to suppress the activity of aromatase—the enzyme used by breast tumors to produce their own estrogen? Well, if you run the same human placenta experiments with fruit, strawberries get the silver, but grapes get the gold.

What kind of grapes? Well, those wimpy green grapes used to make white wine didn’t work, compared to those used for making red.  Bottom line, “red wine may serve as a nutritional [aromatase inhibitor], which may ameliorate the elevated breast cancer risk associated with [the] alcohol intake [in the red wine].”

But why accept any elevated risk, by instead just eating the grapes? And, if you do, chose ones with seeds, if you can, as they may work even better.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to walknboston via flickr; and Peggy Greb, André Karwath, and Scott Bauer, U.S. Department of Agriculture via Wikimedia.  Thanks to Maxim Fetissenko, PhD, and Laurie-Marie Pisciotta for their help with Keynote!

Doctor's Note

My reference to the cancer risk associated with even light drinking (up to one drink per day) is explored in Breast Cancer & Alcohol: How Much is Safe?

Wasn’t there a study that found that fruits and vegetables weren’t protective against cancer, though? See my video on the EPIC Study.

For more on the aromatase story, see:

More on grapes in Fat Burning Via Flavonoids and Best Fruit Juice.

What if you already have breast cancer, though? Well, Cancer Prevention & Treatment May Be the Same Thing, but I do have been a few studies on breast cancer survival and diet:

Also, be sure to check out my associated blog posts for more context: Breast Cancer & Alcohol: How Much is Safe? and Breast Cancer & Wine.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

34 responses to “Breast Cancer Risk: Red Wine vs. White Wine

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  1. The last comment in the video was to eat red grapes with seeds. I’d like too but they are no longer produced. They’re not even availabe at health food stores. I’ve asked for them but I’m told there is no demand. So next time you’re at your store, let your voice be heard.




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  2. I love todays video for a number of reasons: 1) It shows women, without going thru breast removal surgery as to how they can decrease the risk of breast cancer (as well as cancer in general, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and the list goes on and on). 2) Many state that drinking wine has health advantages – as the video indicates its best to eat the grape, receive the health benefits and avoid the down side of alcohol, such as the fact that alcohol attacks fatty tissue, much of what the brain in composed of! 3) The video emphasizes the importance of not putting off a transition toward healthier eating, because when a symptom appears, such as dementia for example, its the result of what the person has been consuming for the last 10-20 years! What we do today determines our tomorrows.

    Thanks Dr Greger for another great lesson in health !




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  3. Dr Greger, Great info, I saw somewhere that you were on Dr Oz, has it aired? If so, please let me know when or when it intends to air..thank you




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  4. Nice special effects. (the twinkling) Sort of reminded me of your older videos where we got to guess before you revealed an answer. I really like that format. I gets my brain into more active listening.

    But I gotsa say, I aint eaten no seeds! :-0




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        1. All these excellent citations seem to warn against the dangers of excess fructose in its free form, as in soft drinks sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. However, I see no problem with the smaller amount of slowly released fructose and sucrose from fruits and vegetables, which are contained in a fiber matrix to slow absorbtion. In this case, the furctose will be metabolized by glycolysis rather than the pentose phosphate shunt, which will eliminate the problem of excess protein synthesis. The many epidemiological studies on fruit and vegetable consumtion show that they are helpful in preventing cancer.




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              1. From that very study, “These results suggest that increasing vegetable and fruit consumption, already recommended for the prevention of several other chronic diseases, may impart some protection against developing pancreatic cancer.”




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            1. You claim that the majority of epidemiological studies say that fruits and veggies don’t prevent cancer….

              As evidence, you cite a case-control study that concluded, “higher consumption of raw vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, garlic as well as broccoli ***may decrease a risk*** of stomach cancer, whereas intake of citrus fruits has no relation with a reduced risk of the disease.”




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    1. No Greger does not contradict himself. He reports that very modist alcohol consumption shows up on the graph for HEART disease as benifitial,but on a CANCER graph as risk producing.




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  5. I believe I read somewhere that wine confers cardiovascular benefits above and beyond grapes because of some chemical that is produced in the fermentation process. I wonder if the same might be true for this aromatase activity of red wine. OK – I’ll admit it – I’m a woman who loves red wine (and drinks it in moderation).




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    1. Here’s to women who love their wine! :) That said, I’m grateful for this new info because now I know how to lower my risk by choosing the right wine. And I love red wine far better than white, anyway, so this is good news indeed. Seems to me that if you are eating right (vegan), exercising regularly, and getting your five to nine servings of fruits and vegies, drinking in moderation is less risky. But I’d like to see more studies. The trouble is, most of these studies are carried out with subjects who eat meat and/or dairy, not with vegans. So I wonder how vegans wine drinkers would stack up agains people who don’t consume wine or alcohol but do eat a standard American diet centered on meat and dairy consumption. I’d be willing to wager that the vegan wine drinkers would still have much lower cancer risk due to a healthier lifestyle overall. To your health… Salud!




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  6. Is there any research that compares alcohol consumption with a standard American diet to alcohol consumption with a plant based diet? Does not alcohol speed some things into the blood stream that might otherwise pass through the system?




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    1. I’m not aware of any studies on alcohol consumption and SAD vs plant based diet. I also don’t know any studies that show interference of the absorption of nutrients by alcohol. However, alcohol consumption should be limited as it is viewed by the body as a toxin creating a myriad of effects on all systems (e.g. nervous, arterial, liver, endocrine). It is common to see vitamin deficiencies in folks who drink a lot of alcohol due to the lack of consumption of healthy foods. Alcohol(7) is more calorie dense then carbohydrates(4) or protein(4)… not as calorie dense as oil(9).




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  7. BTW, white wine is produced from the same grapes as red; they just discard the skins (and most of the intriguing polyphenols) for white wine production.

    Wine has resveratrol, beer has zantholhumol, but its possible ethanol itself is a hormetin, with positive effects, even on cancer mortality, at around one serving per day. See figure 4:

    Jin, M., et al. “Alcohol drinking and all cancer mortality: a meta-analysis.” Annals of Oncology 24.3 (2013): 807-816. http://www.uniad.org.br/desenvolvimento/images/stories/Ann_Oncol-2012-Jin-annonc_mds508_copia.pdf




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    1. Wow, no white wine isn’t produced from the same grapes as red. No varietal uses the same grape as any other varietal. Some white wines do have reddish/bluish skins, but the most popular — Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, etc. are all produced from green skinned/white grapes.

      Yes I know this comment is old, but for posterity …




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  8. In Italy there are no grapes without seeds. In Britain there are no grapes with seed . Which is more natural? British grapes are are sterile, fruitless fruits!!




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  9. I was just wondering if you know any websites that focus more on plant based nutrition in the UK? As this is mostly centred round the US? So do you know a good doctor I can follow on plant based nutrition who focuses more on sources in the uk?




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  10. Hi Dr. Greger, I’m a US medical student and fully support your website. There is absolutely nothing like it out there that I’ve come across! I was hoping you would shed some light on Resveratrol supplements as there have been so many studies but its getting hard for me to wrap my head around all the information. Thank you so much for your work!!




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    1. Greger does implicitly say red wine is unhealthy, and his main point is that red wine has been scientifically proven to ameliorate the breast cancer risk associated with alchool intake.




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  11. As much as I personally like this video (and the topic), the results shown in the study are not in favour of red wine over white wine. One needs to look at the confidence intervals – and they say (in this study) that it doesnt matter! See also an article by Newcomb titled No Difference Between Red Wine or White Wine Consumption and Breast Cancer Risk. Though its conclusions stand (i.e., eat grapes rather than drink wine), this video needs an update. A study by McDonald in 2013 has synthesised knowledge (the article is freely available and titled Alcohol Intake and Breast Cancer Risk: Weighing the Overall Evidence) and the suggestion is, if you really want to reduce your risk of breast cancer, do not consume alcohol. Yeah, I know. :/ The authors of this article have, however, also pointed to potential limitations of their conclusions.




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    1. Apologies, I overlooked that dr. Greger already has a video on the topic: Breast Cancer & Alcohol: How Much is Safe?. I would recommend you refer to this video as a first choice (!) among suggestions bellow this one.




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