Recent findings have suggested that consuming at least some alcohol may reduce the risk of myeloma. A new comprehensive analysis (pooled analysis of several studies) of 1,567 patients with myeloma compared to 7,296 controls--individuals without myeloma--was published this month. The myeloma patients were from the U.S. and Europe. Several different levels of alcohol consumption were considered, ranging from "ever drinks" to "never drinks" to drinks per week and years of drinking.
The bottom line was that study participants who "ever drank" had a lower risk of myeloma versus those who "never drank." In scientific parlance there was "no dose response relationship," meaning there was no relationship to the amount or the number of years of drinking. This also has been true in prior individual studies.
What is going on here? What are the possible explanations? Well, firstly it has been shown broadly that light to moderate alcohol intake can reduce factors triggering inflammation. Such factors include several cytokines (TNF-alpha, IL-1beta, IL-10 and TGF-beta), hormone-like growth factors involved with the development of myeloma. These cytokines can regulate the function of cells present in the microenvironment around myeloma cells. So this can be important.
In addition, as far as specific beverages, there is support for the benefits of red wine, which contains polyphenols. Polyphenols reduce key cellular factors such as NFK-beta and MCP-1. Resveratrol, a natural grape product, has natural cancer chemopreventive properties.
If you happen to prefer beer, there is evidence that chemicals called "prenylflavonoids" and hop bitter acids have chemopreventive activities.
But an important caution is that heavy alcohol drinking is definitely linked to impaired immune function and increased susceptibility to infection, particularly bacterial pneumonias.
And so there you have it: light to moderate alcohol intake can be a good thing! If that happens to be as red wine, that could be even better--especially wines with higher polyphenol levels such as Malbec varieties derived from grapes grown at higher altitudes with more weeks of sun and maturation.
But beer could also be good. And I suspect that an occasional single malt scotch could also be excellent. So enjoy in moderation over the Labor Day weekend!
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