New Study Proves Red Grapes Help Fight Off Cancer

October 21, 2008 - News Release

It's long been known that drinking red grape juice or wine has the potential to help fight off breast cancer. But a new University of Guelph study is the first to pinpoint one of the reasons why.

Profs. Gopi Paliyath and Kelly Meckling have discovered that the polyphenols found in red grapes can inhibit the establishment of cancer cells by suppressing the expression of certain genes that lead to tumour development.

This research was featured in Monday's Globe and Mail.

"Our results support the disease-preventive role of fruits in the diet," said Paliyath. "When people consume red grapes or juice, the concentration of polyphenols in the body can increase. Maintaining a certain level of polyphenols may lead to the destruction of mutated or abnormal cells, preventing their establishment and the development of cancer."

The study, set to be published in the Journal of Nutrition Research, involved orally feeding mice polyphenols extracted from Merlot grapes and red wine. The mice were then injected with estrogen-receptor negative breast cancer cells.

"This type of breast cancer doesn't respond to most treatment and requires more rigorous chemotherapy, so finding dietary strategies that may prevent it is of great interest," said Paliyath.

The researchers found that the polyphenols significantly reduced the growth rate of the injected cancer cells and prevented the establishment of a tumour by suppressing certain genes involved in enhancing cell division.

Although both grape and wine polyphenols were successful in preventing tumour growth, the grape polyphenols were slightly more effective, probably because the mice were able to absorb them better, said Paliyath.

"The research suggests that basically it might be better for you to drink red grape juice rather than red wine because one can consume large amounts of juice without the negative effects of alcohol."

In previous research, Paliyath and Meckling showed that polyphenols can also arrest established breast cancer cells by interfering with the cells' mitochondrial function, which leads to their self-destruction.

"Ultimately, the consumption of grapes, grape juice and red wine may provide multiple levels of protection against breast cancer."

Prof. Gopi Paliyath
Department of Plant Agriculture
519-824-4120, Ext. 54856

Prof. Kelly Meckling
Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences
519-824-4120, Ext. 53742

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338/, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982/

University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1