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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 October, 2003, 00:08 GMT
Red wine 'may treat lung disease'
Red wine
Red wine contains a beneficial chemical
Drinking a little red wine could protect against a serious lung disease, researchers have shown.

A chemical in wine, resveratrol, appears to damp down inflammation in the potentially fatal lung condition chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Researchers writing in the journal Thorax found the chemical was more effective than existing medications for COPD.

But experts say the best way to stop lung damage is not to smoke.

It seems that drinking red wine in moderation as part of a healthy, balanced diet can reduce lung inflammation
Dr John Harvey, British Thoracic Society
Smoking is the prime cause of the condition, which is irreversible and progressive.

In COPD, the lungs deteriorate, making it difficult, and eventually impossible, to breathe.

All doctors can do is relieve patients' symptoms. The condition cannot be treated.


Resveratrol is an antioxidant found in the skins of red fruits, such as grapes, and is thought to be the main beneficial ingredient in red wine.

The drink has already been found to help prevent cancer, protect against heart problems and improve brain function.

Researchers from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College, London, looked at how the lungs become inflamed in COPD sufferers.

They focused on macrophages, cells which produce proteins called cytokines. In COPD patients, too many are produced, causing inflammation.

The researchers looked at macrophage samples from the lung fluid samples of 15 smokers and 15 patients with COPD.

They then triggered them into action using a chemical called an interleukin, or cigarette smoke before adding resveratrol.

It was found that adding the compound more than halved the amount of interleukin produced.

They added resveratrol to the samples and found it reduced the production of a particular cytokine, interleukin 8, by 94% in smokers' macrophages and by 88% in COPD macrophages.

COPD patients had around five times as much interleukin 8 as smokers.

The researchers said more research would have to be carried out to see how much resveratrol would reach the lung tissues.

'Stop smoking'

Dr John Harvey, of the British Thoracic Society, said: "Red wine has already been linked with protection against heart disease and more research is needed to assess its role in alleviating symptoms of chronic lung disease.

"It seems that drinking red wine in moderation as part of a healthy, balanced diet can reduce lung inflammation.

"There is also a growing body of evidence that good nutrition combined with exercise within a pulmonary rehabilitation programme can improve the quality of life of people with chronic lung disease and reduce life-threatening attacks.

"However, the most important way to actually stop lung damage occurring in the first place is to give up smoking. Lung diseases are currently the commonest causes of death in the UK."

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