Drinking a large glass of red wine every day could help prevent bowel cancer, researchers claim.
Resveratrol, found in the skins of red grapes and which gives the wine its colour, has long been known to have cancer-fighting properties, but scientists did not know how much was needed to be effective.
Tests on mice have now shown that a dose equivalent to five milligrams in humans halved the growth of bowel tumours.
Five milligrams were far more effective than a one gram dose.
Professor Karen Brown, who led the trials at Leicester University, said: ‘Everybody thinks that more is better, but we found that the low dose was more effective.
'We were amazed that it had any effect at all and even more surprised by the effectiveness of the low dose.’
Professor Brown will present her findings this week at Resveratrol 2012, a conference dedicated to research into the compound, at the university.
Previous studies have shown even tiny amounts of the compound can reach target tissues in humans.
Scientists have been exploring resveratrol’s potential to reduce the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s and even the ageing process. It is available as a supplement,
However, cancer trials involving resveratrol supplements have proved disappointing.
‘People do take it as a supplement, but there’s no clinical evidence that this is of any benefit’ said Professor Brown.
There is some evidence that very high doses of resveratrol may interfere with certain medicines.
‘We’re still trying to understand the mechanism behind the way resveratrol works and see if it translates to human tissues and cells’ said Prof Brown.
Within two years, her team hopes to conduct a human trial on patients at high risk of bowel cancer.
Sarah Williams, of Cancer Research UK, warned: ‘People shouldn’t drink wine in an attempt to get any health benefits resveratrol can offer.
‘Alcohol has been estimated to cause around 12,500 cases of cancer a year in the UK. The best way to cut the risk of cancer through alcohol is to drink less.’