Washington, March 2 (ANI): Drinking a glass of wine a day may help reduce the risk of Barrett's Esophagus by about 56 per cent, according to a new study.
The findings reported by experts at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research attain significance as Barrett's Esophagus is a precursor to esophageal cancer.
The researchers point out that people with Barrett's Esophagus have a 30- to 40-fold higher risk of developing esophageal adenocarcinoma, a type of esophageal cancer, because the Barrett's Esophagus cells can grow into cancer cells.
The untreatable condition does not have any symptoms or warning signs, and thus people are diagnosed with it only when an endoscopy for anaemia, heartburn or a bleeding ulcer reveals esophageal cells that were damaged, and then changed form during the healing process.
Currently, Barrett's Esophagus can only be monitored.
The researchers claim that theirs is the first and largest population-based study to examine the connection between alcohol consumption and risk of Barrett's Esophagus.
During the study, the research group looked at 953 men and women in Northern California between 2002 and 2005, and found that people who drank one or more glasses of red or white wine a day had 56 per cent reduced risk of Barrett's Esophagus.
There was no reduction of Barrett's Esophagus risk among people who drank beer or liquor.
"The rate of esophageal adenocarcinoma in this country is skyrocketing yet very little is known about its precursor, Barrett's Esophagus. We are trying to figure out how to prevent changes that may lead to esophageal cancer," said Dr. Douglas A. Corley, a Kaiser Permanente gastroenterologist and the study's principal investigator.
These findings are in line with two other studies published in the same issue of the journal Gastroenterology-one by Australian researchers, and the other by Irish scientists.
The Australian researchers found that people who drank wine were at a lower risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma, while the Irish scientists found that people who drank wine were at a lower risk for esophagitis-an irritation of the esophagus that follows chronic heartburn and often precedes Barrett's Esophagus and cancer.
Although ther esearchers are still uncertain as to why wine reduces the risk of Barrett's Esophagus and esophageal cancer, they believe it likely that the wine's antioxidants neutralize the oxidative damage caused by gastroesophageal reflux disease, a risk factor for Barrett's Esophagus.
Dr. Ai Kubo, an epidemiologist at Kaiser Permanente and lead author on the study, said that another possibility was that wine drinkers typically consume food with their wine as opposed to drinking straight liquor without food, thereby reducing the potentially damaging effect of alcohol on esophageal tissue.
"But we cannot preclude the possibility that wine drinking is a proxy for other 'health-seeking' behaviour," Kubo added.
The current study was carried out as part of a larger, case-controlled study, led by Kaiser Permanente researcher Dr. Corley, which looked at abdominal obesity and consumption of dietary antioxidants, fruits and vegetables in connection with Barrett's Esophagus.
The study suggested that the risk of Barrett's Esophagus could be reduced by eating eight servings of fruits and vegetables a day, and maintaining a normal body weight.
"My advice to people trying to prevent Barrett's Esophagus is: keep a normal body weight and follow a diet high in antioxidants and high in fruits and vegetables.
We already knew that red wine was good for the heart, so perhaps here is another added benefit of a healthy lifestyle and a single glass of wine a day," Corley said.
The researchers noted that the protective effect of wine in terms of preventing Barrett's Esophagus, though greatest with just one or two glasses a day, did not increase with higher consumption.
"It's not actually clear that treating the acid reflux will necessarily prevent getting someone from getting Barrett's Esophagus.
The best way to prevent reflux is to maintain a normal weight," said Dr. Corley.(ANI)