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Grapes' Anti-Fungal Agent, Resveratrol, Fights Cancer

Cancer researchers have reported that resveratrol, a defensive molecule against fungus in grapes, is converted in the body to a known anti-cancer agent that selectively targets and destroys cancer cells. Although previous studies have suggested that resveratrol (pronounced rez-VER-a-trawl) prevents cancer, this is the first study to reveal the underlying mechanism of this phytonutrient’s anticancer activity.

Researchers found that resveratrol is converted by a detoxification enzyme found not only in the liver, but also in many different tumors, the cytochrome P450 enzyme CYP1B1, into a metabolite called piceatannol, which is known to protect against leukemia.

This truly ground-breaking observation clearly reveals the connection between eating a diet composed of the World’s Healthiest Foods and cancer prevention. This study demonstrates that a natural compound found in grapes can be converted to a compound with known anticancer activity by an enzyme that is found in human tumours. Additionally, this study suggests that when we consume a healthful diet, we provide our bodies with healing phytochemicals that can be used to produce the cure for cancer from within the very tumors themselves. In this study, researchers show that when supplied with the phytochemical resveratrol, the CYP1B1 enzyme in tumors functions as a growth suppressor enzyme.

Other studies have shown that resveratrol helps prevent cancer during all three phases of the cancer process: initiation, promotion and progression. Resveratrol has been shown to have antioxidant and antimutagenic activity and also to increase levels of other detoxification enzymes, the Phase II enzymes in the liver that are capable of attaching carcinogens to other molecules that act as carriers and ferry them out of the body.

Each of these physiological effects are ways in which resveratrol can prevent cancer initiation. Resveratrol has also been shown to help at the promotion and progression stages of cancer. Resveratrol inhibits the activity of cyclooxygenase and hydroperoxidase, two enzymes central to the inflammatory process, which can contribute to the spread and development of cancer cells. In addition, reseveratrol has also been found to cause human promyelocytic leukemia cells to differentiate and revert to normal, thus helping to slow down the progression phase of cancer.

Resveratrol has been identified in more than 70 species of plants, including mulberries and peanuts, but grapes (their skin not their flesh) are an especially good source.

Fresh grape skin contains about 50 to 100 micrograms of resveratrol per gram, while red wine concentrations range from 1.5 to 3 milligrams per liter. Resveratrol, which is found in the same amounts in alcohol-free red wine as in red wine that contains alcohol, is also thought to be responsible, in part, for the cholesterol-lowering effects of red wine and may also explain why the French (whose diet typically includes red wine) have relatively low rates of heart disease despite a national diet that features creamy cheese and rich desserts.

Resveratrol belongs to a group of compounds called phytoalexins that plants produce in self-defense against environmental stressors like adverse weather or attack by insects or pathogenic microbes. Since grapes produce resveratrol as a defensive agent against fungal infection, this cancer-fighting phytochemical is found at higher levels in organically grown grapes, which have not been artificially protected by treatment with man-made fungicides.

To learn more about this delicious fruit, truly one of the World’s Healthiest Foods, click grapes.

Want suggestions for ways to enjoy grapes more frequently as part of your healthy way of eating? For a list of the World’s Healthiest Foods’ recipes containing grapes, click on the Recipe Assistant, select grapes on the healthy foods list, and click on the Submit button. A list containing links to all the World's Healthiest Foods' recipes containing grapes will appear immediately below.


Potter GA, Patterson LH, Wanogho E, Perry PJ, Butler PC, Ijaz T, Ruparelia KC, Lamb JH, Farmer PB, Stanley LA, Burke MD. The cancer preventative agent resveratrol is converted to the anticancer agent piceatannol by the cytochrome P450 enzyme CYP1B1. Br J Cancer 2002 Mar 4;86(5):774-8.
Dr. Mercola, eHealthy News You Can Use, Mar 16, 2002 - Issue 307.
Nature December 20/27, 2001;414:863-864.

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