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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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Here's to Your Health
10 July 2000 7:00 pm
Despite a diet chock-full of artery-plugging fats, people living in France are much less prone to heart disease than Americans or Britons. Scientists now say they may have pinpointed the molecular basis for the French anomaly--a compound found in red wine that may stymie heart disease and cancer.
The French passion for fat-laden foods like butter, cheese, rich sauces, and pâté makes American cardiologists blanch. Yet the French death rate from cardiovascular disease is 50% lower than America's and 75% lower than Britain's--a disparity that has become known as the French paradox. Deaths from breast cancer are also less common in France. Many scientists suspect that wine, another staple of the French meal, may be counteracting the harmful effects of a fatty diet. Nine years ago, a 60 Minutes report exploring this possibility had vintners bubbling; it uncorked a 40% rise in wine sales in the United States.
But which of the myriad components of wine might confer protection? Some scientists credit alcohol itself with a large part of the effect, but cancer biologists Minnie Holmes-McNary and Albert Baldwin of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, point out that beer drinkers don't seem to benefit. That's why they focused on resveratrol, an antioxidant compound found in red wine that previous studies indicated could suppress inflammation and cancer formation. They dosed human and rat cells growing in culture with resveratrol and measured the effect on nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB), a multipurpose protein known to promote cancer growth and inflammation--which is thought to be important in atherosclerosis.
As the scientists report in the July issue of Cancer Research, resveratrol prevented the liberation of NF-kB from storage sites within the cell. As an added bonus, it stimulated cancer cells to kill themselves. Since resveratrol is abundant in purple grape juice, raspberries, and peanuts, teetotalers can reap the benefits of this compound as well, Holmes-McNary points out.
Eric Rimm, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health, says the study points to possible new treatments for heart disease. However, he maintains that there's "overwhelming evidence" that alcohol itself shields the heart of wine lovers. To him, the French paradox isn't much of a mystery. Says Rimm: "Hey, it's the ethanol, stupid!"