Wine Information Council

Wine Information Council

A Mediterranean dietary pattern has been associated with beneficial health outcomes in the prevention of chronic degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular diseases (CVD), type 2 diabetes, cognitive decline or cancers. Its benefits were recognized by the UNESCO, which declared the Med diet in 2010 as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

What has been related to its health benefits are antioxidants, especially polyphenols. The intake of these compounds is associated with beneficial effects on the blood lipids, blood pressure, glucose metabolism, inflammatory processes in the body and adiposity.

A moderate wine consumption, especially red wine, has been shown to provide some degree of protection against CVD, diabetes mellitus type 2 and cognitive decline, which has been related to its polyphenol content. However, this is based on evidence from observational studies and there is a lack of randomized clinical trials, which can prove a causal relationship.

It should be also noted that, wine contains alcohol which can increase the risk of liver disorders and several types of cancer. Nevertheless, the Mediterranean pattern of drinking wine with the meals may delay ethanol absorption and favour its more rapid clearance and, at the same time, it may contribute to a decrease in postprandial oxidative stress produced after a meal. The polyphenols present in wine are also found in fruits and vegetables which lack the risks associated with alcohol, however, the presence of alcohol in the food might make wine polyphenols more bioavailable.

Certainly, wine (or any other alcoholic drink, for that matter) should not only be presented as having health benefits. The risks of alcohol should always be taken into account. Communicating messages that might induce people to drink in the hope of improving their health could likely have more harmful than beneficial consequences.

It is not easy to give a simple answer to the question of whether wine should be considered a key food contributing to the beneficial health outcomes in the Med diet but it definitely constitutes a distinguishing feature of many Mediterranean cultures. In those regions, wine can be a relevant contributor to the polyphenol intake and could be considered a side element in the beneficial health effect of the Med diet, provided it is consumed the Mediterranean way which is light to moderate regular consumption with meals.

The authors consider wine as a fruitive food, which is to be enjoyed responsibly and in moderation, in a convivial environment and in the context of an adequate diet and lifestyle. This way, it may constitute another element of a healthy lifestyle provided there are no reasons to advise against their intake.


Source: Santos-Buelga C, González-Manzano S, González-Paramás AM. Wine, Polyphenols, and Mediterranean Diets. What Else Is There to Say? Molecules. 2021 Sep 12;26(18):5537. doi: 10.3390/molecules26185537. PMID: 34577008; PMCID: PMC8468969.

For more information about this abstract, click here.

18 November 2021 In Drinking Patterns 0 comment

BACKGROUND: Evidence suggests that people who abstain from alcohol have a higher mortality rate than those who drink low to moderate amounts. However, little is known about factors that might be causal for this finding. The objective was to analyze former alcohol or drug use disorders, risky drinking, tobacco smoking, and fair to poor health among persons who reported abstinence from alcohol drinking in the last 12 months before baseline in relation to total, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality 20 years later.

METHODS AND FINDINGS: A sample of residents aged 18 to 64 years had been drawn at random among the general population in northern Germany and a standardized interview conducted in the years 1996 to 1997. The baseline assessment included 4,093 persons (70.2% of those who had been eligible). Vital status and death certificate data were retrieved in the years 2017 and 2018.

We found that among the alcohol-abstinent study participants at baseline (447), there were 405 (90.60%) former alcohol consumers. Of the abstainers, 322 (72.04%) had met one or more criteria for former alcohol or drug dependence or abuse, alcohol risky drinking, or had tried to cut down or to stop drinking, were daily smokers, or self-rated their health as fair to poor. Among the abstainers with one or more of these risk factors, 114 (35.40%) had an alcohol use disorder or risky alcohol consumption in their history. Another 161 (50.00%) did not have such an alcohol-related risk but were daily smokers. The 322 alcohol-abstinent study participants with one or more of the risk factors had a shorter time to death than those with low to moderate alcohol consumption. The Cox proportional hazard ratio (HR) was 2.44 (95% confidence interval (CI), 1.68 to 3.56) for persons who had one or more criteria for an alcohol or drug use disorder fulfilled in their history and after adjustment for age and sex. The 125 alcohol-abstinent persons without these risk factors (27.96% of the abstainers) did not show a statistically significant difference from low to moderate alcohol consumers in total, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality. Those who had stayed alcohol abstinent throughout their life before (42; 9.40% of the alcohol-abstinent study participants at baseline) had an HR 1.64 (CI 0.72 to 3.77) compared to low to moderate alcohol consumers after adjustment for age, sex, and tobacco smoking. Main limitations of this study include its reliance on self-reported data at baseline and the fact that only tobacco smoking was analyzed as a risky behavior alongside alcohol consumption.

CONCLUSIONS: The majority of the alcohol abstainers at baseline were former alcohol consumers and had risk factors that increased the likelihood of early death. Former alcohol use disorders, risky alcohol drinking, ever having smoked tobacco daily, and fair to poor health were associated with early death among alcohol abstainers. Those without an obvious history of these risk factors had a life expectancy similar to that of low to moderate alcohol consumers. The findings speak against recommendations to drink alcohol for health reasons.

Before menopause, women are affected less frequently than men by cardiovascular diseases. But with the hormonal changes (and increasing age) this advantage is lost. The risk increases significantly, which is also noticeable in the changing cholesterol values. Spanish researchers examined in a sub-group of the PREDIMED study whether post-menopausal women at high risk for cardiovascular diseases might benefit from moderate wine consumption. They selected 222 postmenopausal women who indicated at the beginning of the study that they consume wine regularly.  Various glucose and lipid parameters (triglycerides, total cholesterol, HDL- and LDL-cholesterol) were analysed in the blood samples of the participants.

Approximately 45% of the 60- to 80-year-old women specified that they drink wine and 40% of them consume it daily. However, the data from food questionnaires are often inaccurate, especially with regards to alcoholic beverages. To acquire more exact data, the researchers analysed tartaric acid (*) in urine samples. In quantitative terms, tartaric acid is the most important organic acid in wine and the excreted amount in the urine is a reliable biomarker for wine consumption.


More tartaric acid, lower cholesterol values

The analyses confirmed that there was a direct and linear correlation between the level of the urinary tartaric acid and the wine consumption indicated in the questionnaire.

Since the participating women were at high risk for cardiovascular diseases – there were many diabetics, individuals with high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels – the researchers looked for an association between these risk factors and the urinary tartaric acid as biomarker for wine consumption.

No association with anthropometric parameters (body weight, Body Mass Index, hip and waist circumference), blood pressure and blood glucose was found. However, urinary tartaric acid concentrations - as objective biomarker of wine intake - were associated with significantly lower levels of total and LDL cholesterol. These findings support the notion that wine intake has beneficial effects on the cardiovascular health of postmenopausal women, since its biomarker tartaric acid was associated with lower total and LDL cholesterol.

Randomized-controlled trials are needed to confirm these results and determine the impact of moderate wine consumption on cardiovascular health in postmenopausal women.


(*) Tartaric acid is an organic substance that occurs naturally in various plants, fruits and wine. 


Source: Domínguez-López I, Parilli-Moser I, Arancibia-Riveros C, Tresserra-Rimbau A, Martínez-González MA, Ortega-Azorín C, Salas-Salvadó J, Castañer O, Lapetra J, Arós F, Fiol M, Serra-Majem L, Pintó X, Gómez-Gracia E, Ros E, Lamuela-Raventós RM, Estruch R. Urinary Tartaric Acid, a Biomarker of Wine Intake, Correlates with Lower Total and LDL Cholesterol. Nutrients. 2021 Aug 22;13(8):2883. doi: 10.3390/nu13082883. PMID: 34445043; PMCID: PMC8399930.


For more information about this abstract, click here.

Even though the detrimental health effects of heavy drinking are well-documented in the literature, there are inconsistent findings regarding the safety of light-to-moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages. In particular, little is still known about the consumption of specific alcoholic beverages in the context of dietary habits and lifestyle, which could influence the health status. The current review summarised and critically evaluated the evidence of the relationship between alcoholic beverage preference and consumer dietary and lifestyle habits. A literature search identified 26 articles as suitable to be included in the publication.

This review has demonstrated that alcoholic beverage preference is associated with specific dietary and lifestyle habits, including drinking patterns and absolute consumption of alcoholic beverages. Individuals with a wine preference generally had healthier dietary and lifestyle habits than individuals with other preferences, which was mainly observed in Northern European and US studies and, to a lesser extent, in Mediterranean countries. The latter discrepancy could be explained by the fact that the Mediterranean diet is a cultural heritage in Southern Europe and is not limited to certain consumer groups and, therefore, differences between alcoholic beverages can be expected to be less marked. Those who preferred beer and spirits displayed less healthy dietary habits, without any regional discrepancies arising from the country where the studies were carried out. The observed relationships between wine preference and a healthier dietary and lifestyle profile could be attributed to cultural, personal (beliefs, concerns, perceptions and attitudes), behavioural and socio-demographic factors and their latent interrelations.

The authors concluded that the alcoholic beverage preference seems to be correlated with specific dietary and lifestyle habits. The adherence to a healthier diet and lifestyle was generally observed in light-to-moderate alcohol consumers, especially when wine was the preferred beverage. Considering that the alcoholic beverage preference is linked to specific dietary and lifestyle patterns and taking into account the potentially strong impact of drinking patterns on health and the risk of developing chronic diseases, the data summarised in this review highlight that alcoholic beverage preferences, drinking patterns, dietary patterns and lifestyle should be studied together. Thus, from a public health perspective, it appears that drinking pattern, dietary pattern and lifestyle should be examined in combination and as such be evaluated in any future epidemiological studies analysing the association between alcoholic beverages intake and the impact on health.


Source: Kosti, R. I., Di Lorenzo, C., Panagiotakos, D. B., Sandeman, G., Frittella, N., Iasiello, B., Teissedre, P.- L. ., & Restani, P. (2021). Dietary and lifestyle habits of drinkers with preference for alcoholic beverage: does it really matter for public health? A review of the evidence. OENO One, 55(4).

For more information about this abstract, click here.

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