When we raise a glass of white wine and wish each other good health, it’s more than a habit. A university laboratory in Thessaly has demonstrated that Greek white wine contains a powerful anti-cancer agent. The discovery has made an impact abroad, since up to now only red wine was known to possess anti-cancer properties and there had been no studies of Greek wines. Major epidemiological studies have been conducted in recent years in France, but only into red wines. It was these studies that prompted Dimitris Kouretas, assistant professor of biochemistry and biotechnology at Thessaly University, and his team to undertake their research. French paradox «Wine was once believed to have no anti-cancer properties,» Kouretas told Kathimerini. «In fact, it was generally believed to be implicated in cancer and heart disease. That is why the anti-cancer properties of French wines that had been reported in early studies was described as the ‘French paradox.’ «My team started researching the biological properties of Greek white wines and white grapes some years ago. And recently we demonstrated that they have a powerful anti-cancer effect on human cells.» «When I returned to Greece from America a few years back,» said Kouretas, «I wanted to make use of the techniques employed by the US Food and Drug Administration to certify the biological properties of foods. «My colleagues and I set up the infrastructure in the Physiology and Toxicology Laboratory in the Biochemistry-Biotechnology Department at Larissa to find out whether the components of grapes and wine had anti-cancer effects on human cells by performing biological tests.» The researchers examined white grapes and wines from Santorini and Thessaly and concluded that they did indeed have anti-cancer properties that were even more effective than those of red wine. The team subjected the grape extract to molecular tests which showed their effect on human cells, bacteria and enzymes responsible for the growth of cancer cells. The study made front-page news in the International Herald Tribune, as it was the first time such studies had been conducted on the white grape components – previous studies only examined the wine. «We believe the combination of Greek wines with an anti-cancer effect will arouse international interest,» said Kouretas. «It will give Greek wines a strong comparative advantage in international markets.» Complex process What exactly does the anti-cancer effect mean? Can we ward off the danger of cancer completely by drinking a little wine? «It’s not that simple, unfortunately. Cancer is a complex process which occurs for many years before it is noticed. We can incorporate certain practices into our daily routine so as to delay or curb it. Most people expect that a cancer cure will be found, but this is a fallacy. «The correct interpretation of scientific data teaches us that if we really want to combat cancer, we have to adopt certain habits: We have to exercise daily, eat less red meat and more fresh vegetables and olive oil. «What we are saying is that white wine from certain parts of Greece probably exerts a powerful anti-cancer effect. And we say probably because what we have found in the laboratory must be confirmed by epidemiological studies. «Usually laboratory finds are confirmed, but the epidemiological studies must be conducted,» explained Kouretas. Few such studies are conducted in Greece, however. Future aims The research team’s next objective is to examine other varieties of Greek grapes and wines, to test red wines from Thessaly, and to formulate a uniform biological function test that will meet international standards. «We aim to promote Greek wine even more and to make our laboratory a reference point for future studies,» said Kouretas. There is a problem with their research funding, which runs out in two years. «We want to find backers from Thessaly so we can continue our work on local wines and I believe we will succeed,» he added. The team’s work has already given Greek wine a boost, and now we can feel sure that a few glasses of white wine not only make us feel good but also are likely good for our health.