Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Alcohol binging and its consequences-New insight into protective component in red wine

Alcohol based drinks are increasingly being consumed world over whether to celebrate some events or drown the sorrow at a personal level. Though it is an intoxicating drink and governments in many countries tried to impose ban on its making and consumption, the so called "prohibition" policies never worked satisfactorily in an country so far. The debate regarding the beneficial aspects of alcohol consumption is a never ending one and many argue that moderate consumption can be health supporting. However there is near unanimity on the fact that too much consumption or addictive consumption can be injurious to health. It is well established that high intake of alcohol can cause liver cirrhosis and eventual death among many habitual drunkards. Also known is the fact that excessive alcohol consumption can lead to development of different types of cancers affecting head, neck, esophagus, breasts and colorectum, supposedly due to DNA and RNA damage at the cellular level. Recent reports that red wine, a good source of an antioxidant Resveratrol, can help the body to repair the damage caused by alcohol are creating some excitement among cancer therapists for evolving a workable therapy based on this phytochemical. Here is a gist of the report. 

""Alcohol bombards your genes," says Robert Sclafani, PhD, investigator at the University of Colorado Cancer Center and professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics at the CU School of Medicine. "Your body has ways to repair this damage, but with enough alcohol eventually some damage isn't fixed." The body metabolizes alcohol by converting it to acetyl aldehyde, then uses aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) to further convert it to acetic acid, which is excreted. Acetyl aldehyde, a partially processed state of alcohol, is a carcinogen that produces DNA "cross links" that can cause cell death. If enough alcohol is consumed the body can end up with a backlog of acetyl aldehyde. Increased consumption of alcohol, loss of the ALDH gene that helps the body process alcohol, and loss of the ability to repair DNA cross links all result in increased cancer risk. However, Sclafani says there is something in red wine, that blocks the cancer-causing effect of alcohol and believes resveratrol, a natural chemical found in the skins of grapes and berries as well as in red wine and dark chocolate, is the prime candidate. The researchers found that resveratrol kills cells with unrepaired DNA damage so they can't go on to cause cancer. Growing evidence also suggests that resveratrol directly binds to DNA and RNA, activates antioxidant enzymes, prevents inflammation, and kills the cells with the most damage – the cells that have the highest probability of being able to cause cancer.  Before you take this news as carte blanche to quaff red wine by the bucketful, Sclafani warns that the resveratrol in red wine (and other chemopreventive chemicals found in grape seed extract) isn't a magic bullet that can completely undo the cancer-causing effects of alcohol. However, by killing the most dangerous cells it may decrease the probability that alcohol use will cause cancer. Interest in using natural compounds to fight cancer and other diseases has been growing in recent years. Resveratrol has also been linked to reduced risk for heart disease, a potential way to fight obesity and slowing down of the aging process."

Moderate consumption of alcohol does not cause accumulation of the intermediate metabolite from alcohol, viz acetyl aldehyde which has a tendency to produce DNA cross links leading to cell death and consequences there of. While qualitatively the above theory may sound realistic, how Resveratrol can be used in a form that can readily be delivered at the cellular level is of some concern. Absorption of many polyphenolic molecules with powerful antioxidant potential across the intestine is a matter that has to be considered if and when they are to be used in any therapeutic application. Resveratrol is also no exception to this absorption uncertainty. Incidentally this chemical is also being promoted as an anti-aging agent though no one knows precisely how it works in human body. There are many plant foods containing Resveratrol though Red wine is the most promising source.


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