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Posted: Tuesday, 09 July 2019 11:49

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Wine and Health: Plethora of Health Studies to confuse and use for Sales Pitch

Tuesday 09: Studies on wine and health have picked up pace with both sides of the coin thrown at you at a constant pace putting you in a spin on what to believe and what not to, even as there is a website that merrily describes the unproven and implausible health benefits of white wine without adequate emphasis on drinking in moderation, encouraging hapless consumers to drink more with potentially disastrous effects, writes Subhash Arora who feels producers may be accused of encouraging excessive wine drinking for their benefit by making tall and unsubstantiated claims

Two studies with opposite results and recommendations have come up during the last couple of days.  First study reported in the Journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research spearheaded by Dr. Katherine Keyes at Columbia University and reported by Medical New Today reveals that moderate and occasional drinkers had lower death rates than abstainers. Also, importantly, moderate and occasional female drinkers were less likely to die prematurely than lifetime abstainers.

The report looked at data from nearly 8,000 older adults- people born between 1931 and 1941 who enrolled in the study in 1992. Since that year, researchers collected information on the participants' drinking habits and interviewed them twice a year for 16 years, every year from 1998 through 2014 and came to the above conclusion. For details, visit:

However, the authors of the report warn that people should interpret the results with caution, as the study could contain biases and measurement errors. Also, factors that are not yet known could have influenced the results. ‘More research is necessary’ is the restrain as usual.

In the second Study, women are advised to give up alcohol completely to boost their mental health, as reported by Independent. Despite recommendations that moderate drinking can be part of a healthy diet, new findings suggest people who abstain enjoy the highest level of mental wellbeing.

The study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), compared teetotallers with moderate consumers of alcohol- 14 drinks or fewer for men and seven or fewer for women. (2 per day for men and 1 per day for women).

Those who never drink alcohol had the highest level of mental wellbeing at the start of the five-year analysis. And for female drinkers, quitting was linked to a favourable change in mental health in both Hong Kong and US populations.

Co-author Dr Michael Ni, a brain scientist at the University of Hong Kong, said the evidence suggests caution in recommending moderate drinking as part of a healthy diet and suggest that quitting alcohol may improve overall health-related quality of life as well as mental wellbeing, especially for women.

His team looked at 10,386 participants from the Family Cohort in Hong Kong and data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions – a representative survey of 31,079 people conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in the US. The results took into account socio-demographic factors, BMI (body mass index) and smoking status also.

Dr Ni says, ‘Our findings suggest caution in recommendations that moderate drinking could improve health-related quality of life. Quitting drinking may be associated with a more favourable change in mental wellbeing, approaching the level of lifetime abstainers.’

The findings raise questions over the safe and sensible amount to drink. Advice from the UK’s chief medical officer says it is safest for men and women not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week – equal to around six glasses of wine.

delWine Recommendations

The underlying factor is that wine must be consumed in moderation. delWine has always recommended not more than 2 glasses of wine for men and 1 glass per day for women with a possible break for 2 days in a week, preferably red wine because of the anti-ageing properties and preferably with food.

In fact, it is the projected benefits of red wine that encouraged the US residents to rush to buy red wine when the findings were disclosed on TV in 1991 for the first time when late Dr Sergio Renaud and Dr. Curt Ellison appeared on the ‘Sixty Minutes’ program and suggested that red wine in moderation was the reason why the French had lesser heart problems.

Several studies have been conducted since and despite some revealing negative effects due to excessive drinking have found the results palatable-at best no significant benefits were found. One exception was noted in that the probability of breast cancer in women going up even with one glass of wine and escalated rapidly with more.

More red than white

Today, China has taken the lead in drinking red wine even in the hot climate and with food that cries for white wine which has practically a zero market (in certain coastal regions a reversal of trend has been seen of late). In India also, despite the generally warm to hot months people prefer red wine as it is prescribed by the doctors for health reasons and red wine enjoys almost twice the share of white wine market.

‘Health Benefits of White Wine’?

Recently I came across a website which sang praises of white wine  based on which a producer implicitly touted his white wine and this could be a dangerous precedent. Here are the tall claims made for white wine by Howmanypedia that lists fairly accurately about the calorie content of white wine as many other food items but goes a little too far describing the benefits of white wine without any scientific study or a pool of studies, opening itself to wide criticism from health-conscious people or bodies. He is what it says about white wine:  

‘White wine is not just a beverage as it also gives you different health benefits. White wine has antioxidants which can be really useful in getting rid of harmful toxins in the body. Various studies conducted show that white wine is rich in antioxidants as they protect your cells. In drinking white wine, you can prevent or reduce your risk of acquiring certain diseases. With this wine containing antioxidants, you can avoid having breast cancer and lung diseases. In a study that was conducted at the University of Buffalo, consuming wine can actually improve your lung health. That is why when your drink white wine you can lessen your risk of having lung cancer or other lung-related illnesses.’

It goes on to say that ‘to reduce hangovers, you can actually drink white wine. Compared to other alcoholic beverages, white wine contains lower congeners. When you drink wine, you can actually avoid hangovers and avoid having to experience nausea and headache. White wine contains fluoride, potassium and phosphorous as well as it has antioxidants.’ As if offering an apology, it does add, ‘although white wine also gives you health benefits, there is no doubt that red wine is still the better choice.’ It also says ‘Excessive drinking is also not a good thing especially since there are health risks involved when you take in too much alcohol and advises to ‘monitor the number of wine glasses that you are drinking per week or in a day.’

However, it does a positive disservice by promoting white wine consumption through the chart alongside  with not a word on the moderation and touts the unproven benefits. Here are the benefits listed in the chart:

High Levels of antioxidants

Preventing breast cancer

Preventing lung diseases

Cardiovascular benefits

Slows ageing

Increase blood flow

Boost the Immune system

Apart from the breast cancer which is totally false and a big bone of contention , everything else is exaggerated from tall to very tall claim. It does have proven cardiovascular benefits that are understandably less than red wines which uses skins in fermentation and it is mostly the skin and pips to some extent that have the tannins. Orange wine made from white wine grapes fermented with the skins is healthier. But when a customer reads the chart, he would want to rush to the nearest wine store to buy a case of white wines as a health tonic!

Self restraint in describing the benefits is as important in dissemination of information as consuming in moderation. Wine is a lifestyle drink produced and consumed for thousands of years and over the history many doctors have prescribed wine (mostly red but some white and champagne as well ) depending upon how these people reacted to it themselves. But at the end of the day, moderation is the key and drinking with food prevents alcohol passing directly to the kidneys while food helps to break it up and avoids inebriation.

Studies are done with various objectives, not the least being the financial grants available to the research teams, with the results or at least their direction being a foregone conclusion unlike the earlier examples a decade or two ago. But we advise our readers not to start imbibing wine or any alcohol if they are abstainers only for the health reasons. Wine is a drink to be shared amongst friends and more people ought to switch to wine but in restrained quantity. It is better for them and the society at large.

For a few of the related articles, visit:

Blog: French Health Ministry Warning infuriates Wine Producers

Mother of All Wine & Health Studies Shot Dead by NIH

Mother of All Studies on Wine and Health to Start

Study: Wine may increase Risk of Breast Cancer

Blog: Taking Red Wine with a Pinch of Salt

Wine-An Affair Of The Heart

Study shows Red Light to Red Wine

Renaud: Farewell to Father of French Paradox

Subhash Arora  

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