Latest scientific news 26 January 2022

Wine consumption and Covid-19 – an update

From time to time new “miraculous” cures that supposedly protect against a Covid-19 infection appear in the media. To mention the latest: a team of British and Chinese scientists seems to have found promising news for wine drinkers when it comes to Covid-19 risk and have presented some interesting and novel findings.

What is it all about?

The data of almost 474,000 subjects from the UK biobank database were analysed, with the goal to find out more about the relationship between the consumption of alcoholic beverages and the Covid-19 risk.

The researchers divided the participants into groups according to their drinking status (non-drinker, former drinker and current drinker). The study included approximately 16.000 individuals (average age: 69 ) who tested positive for Covid-19.

The study results showed that the consumption of different alcoholic beverages was associated with different chances of Covid-19 infection. Individuals who consumed red wine (above or double above the guidelines *) had a 17% lower risk to get infected with the Covid-19 virus. Those who consumed between one and four glasses of white wine (including sparkling wine) had an 8% lower Covid-19 infection risk compared to non-drinkers.

On the other hand, consumption of beer, cider and spirits increased the Covid-19 risk, regardless of the frequency and amount of alcohol intake compared to non-drinkers.

The researchers concluded that subjects who usually consumed red wine, white wine and champagne above the guidelines (*) appeared to have a reduced risk of Covid-19.

A possible explanation for the protective effect of wine could be the polyphenols and their antioxidant properties. The protective effect of red wine against Covid-19 was significant, independent of the frequency of alcohol intake, probably due to the high concentration of phenolic compounds in this beverage, compared to other alcoholic beverages

However, despite the results of their study, the researchers warn that heavy drinking is not recommended for any alcoholic beverage.

What does it mean?

Even though this is a large prospective study and the results are promising and interesting, there are a number of limitations to consider before drawing wrong conclusions that wine consumption can be a “miraculous” protection against Covid-19 :

  • This is an observational study that cannot examine cause and effect;
  • The participants in this UK-based study have a restricted age range (average age is 69) and the results cannot represent the entire population or can be transferred to other countries;
  • It is not known whether these findings are applicable to younger populations and other ethnic groups;
  • The alcohol drinking habits of the participants were assessed at baseline and potential changes during the Covid-19 pandemic are not known;
  • Other lifestyle factors (such diet, smoking, body weight, exercise, general health status) might affect the Covid-19 risk.

Therefore, the researchers suggest that public health guidance should focus on reducing the risk of Covid-19 by advocating healthy lifestyle habits.

Thus, nothing speaks against a glass of wine with a meal (Mediterranean style) and in the context of a healthy lifestyle, however, it is not recommended to drink wine to avoid a Covid-19 infection.


(*) The existing UK guidelines, used as a reference in this study:

– up to 14 units a week with one small glass of wine accounting for 1.5 units and approx. 500 ml of lower-strength beer for two units.

If you want to know about Wine in Moderation drinking guidelines and discover what the recommendations in your country are, click here.

Source: Dai XJ, Tan L, Ren L, Shao Y, Tao W, Wang Y. COVID-19 Risk Appears to Vary Across Different Alcoholic Beverages. Front Nutr. 2022 Jan 3;8:772700. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2021.772700. PMID: 35047542; PMCID: PMC8761797. 

For more information about this abstract, click here.