Tuesday, 12 May 2015 08:07

Report from the first Wine and Health Conference in Zagreb

Approximately 120 participants from all over Europe attended the first Wine and Health conference in Zagreb on April 14, 2015. The latest scientific evidence on wine and health as well as moderation, responsibility and education were on the agenda.

Croatia, the host of the conference, is a country with a rich viticultural and wine-making tradition. Wine used to be grown as early as the Greek and Roman times and thanks to favorable conditions, a moderate climate and its geographic diversity, Croatia has a great viticultural potential and lots of interest in wine, health and social aspects.

The scientific evidence on wine and eating, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes were the focus of the first session. At the University of Split, Prof. Mladen Boban researches the pharmacological and biological effects of wine compounds. In his presentation at the conference, he explained why drinking patterns matter and why it is good to drink with a meal. An overload with sugar and oxidized/oxidizable lipids from the food results in glucose spikes and products of lipid oxidation which cause oxidative stress and damaging inflammatory responses after the meal. Common understanding is that wine phenolics as potent antioxidants may counteract these detrimental effects. He illustrated that besides these antioxidant effects in the blood, wine phenolic compounds, when taken as part of the meal, may also act locally in the gastro-intestinal tract by preventing the absorption and generation of cytotoxic products. In addition, drinking with a meal results in a reduced rate of alcohol absorption, which reduces the alcohol load to the liver. Because of a strong anti-bacterial activity, wine may also act as a digestive aid and improve the microbial food safety.

The second speaker of the scientific session, Prof. Giovanni de Gaetano (Head of the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention IRCCS NEUROMED) focused his presentation on recent meta-analyses regarding alcoholic beverages, cardiovascular outcomes and total mortality. He pointed out that these meta-analyses provide consistent evidence of J-shaped relationships between beer and wine intake and cardiovascular risk, with a maximal protection at a moderate consumption of around 25 g alcohol/day. In other words, there is substantial and consistent evidence for a beneficial association with cardiovascular risk and all-cause mortality for drinkers having one to two drinks per drinking day without episodic heavy drinking, compared to lifetime abstainers. These meta-analyses also suggest that other lifestyle factors do not explain the lower cardiovascular risk found to occur among moderate drinkers. Prof. de Gaetano emphasized that such protection is not seen when drinking more than moderately, which is more than 30 grams of alcohol per day or when binge drinking.

“Should we recommend or ban wine in patients with metabolic syndrome/diabetes?” was the question that Prof. Kristian Rett (Head physician of the hospital Sachsenhausen, Frankfurt, Germany) discussed. He explained that already 120 years ago, Carl von Noorden systematically used wine as a standard component of the diabetes diet to minimize glycosuria, to increase edibility and reduce the fat content of the contemporary high-fat diabetes diet. Today, we know that the metabolic consequences of moderate alcohol consumption not only reduces the glucose production in the liver but also increases skeletal muscle insulin action. Both effects are reasonably applicable in the treatment concepts of both type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Rett concluded that these kinds of patients may profit from moderate wine consumption and may thus be encouraged to include wine in their individual treatment plan, if no other reasons speak against it.

George Sandeman, president of the non-profit association Wine in Moderation-Art de Vivre (WIM) aisbl, opened the second session on moderation, responsibility and education. He presented in Zagreb the principles of the Wine in Moderation-Art de Vivre programme (WIM) that has the aim to reinforce responsible patterns as a social and cultural norm. Sandeman emphasized the importance of information and education of the consumers in changing behaviours.

Ursula Fradera, nutritionist at the Deutsche Weinakademie, showed an example how the WIM initiative is implemented at national level. In Germany, the focus is put on educating wine professionals in all wine-related vocational schools, sommelier schools and two universities with a one-day “Art de Vivre” seminar which equally covers the benefits and the associated risks of the misuse of alcoholic beverages and of wine in particular. She emphasized that the objective is to sensitize wine professionals and to enable them not only to inform consumers competently about the product but also about its effects on health. So far, approximately 8600 participants were reached in more than 220 seminars. The evaluations have shown that the seminar is successful in increasing the knowledge of the participants.

In a concluding round table discussion on “Wine, culture and economy”, the possibilities of implementing the WIM programme in Croatia were discussed by various Croatian experts from government, university and the wine sector. All of the participants concluded that WIM would a great initiative for Croatia.

The organizers of the Conference, the Croatian Chamber of Economy under the patronage of Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Health were pleased about the turn out and success of this first conference.


Participants of the Wine and Health Conference that took place in Zagreb


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