WINSTON-SALEM — The cancer-fighting antioxidants in Muscadine grapes have been heralded and chronicled in medical research for years. Native to North Carolina, the thick skins and prolific seeds provide an avalanche of resveratrol and ellagic acid which has been shown to battle colon, lung and liver cancer in mice while also reducing the risk of coronary heart disease.
A five-year study of a potent muscadine grape extract developed by Wake Forest University’s School of Medicine is showing remarkable effects in battling breast and prostate cancer while also elevating and enhancing standard care therapies.
Dr. Patricia E. Gallagher, a lead researcher at Wake Forest School of Medicine, shared key findings of that study at the recent N.C. Wine Growers Association annual conference. She noted that the 100-plus phenolics in the extract — not yet available commercially — is “a cocktail of multiple compounds regulating more than 3,000 genes.
Gallagher said Wake Forest research strongly suggests that the designer-extract also boosts the cancer fighting abilities of other chemo-therapeutics such as Tamoxifin, commonly prescribed for breast cancer patients.
And there’s more good news, she says: Although many cancer-fighting regimens are a combination of drugs that carry negative effects such as cardio-vascular problems, the Wake Forest extract carries no negative side effects.
“This is going to be a hard sell to doctors,” she told grape growers and wine makers.
To get the same cancer-fighting effects of the extract, someone would have to drink three bottles of Muscadine wine daily. This, Gallagher joked, is not medically recommended for obvious reasons.
The study involves more than two dozen researchers from various disciplines and is funded by a $20 million gift — the largest in Wake Forest Baptist history. That financial boost is allowing research and clinical trials to proceed at a much faster pace.
The best part: “We’re using what is thrown away (in wine production) — the skins and seeds. We’re using these parts to benefit mankind.”
N.C. State University Agricultural Extension Specialist Dr. Mark Hoffman brought additional news to the annual wine conference:
- North Carolina now has more than 200 wineries and 2,300 acres of vineyards
- The economic impact of the wine industry on North Carolina exceeds $2 billion annually
- North Carolina is ranked No. 7 in the nation in wine gallons produced
- The federal government recognized the state’s newest designated grape growing region in 2019: The Crest of the Blue Ridge in Henderson County. It includes Burntshirt Vineyards, Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards and Point Lookout Vineyards.
- Thanks to low rainfall levels last summer, the 2019 growing season offered high yields and excellent fruit.
This year, the state will celebrate North Carolina Wine Month in May, rather than September. Most wineries found it difficult to plan special events in September because that’s when harvest, crush and filling tanks is at its peak.