Latest scientific news 30 March 2020

Wine, sparkling wine & Co: health effects may depend on the beverage type

Over the past few decades, many studies reported that moderate drinkers of alcoholic beverages had a lower morbidity and mortality risk compared to non-drinkers (J-curve). Recent studies have raised concerns that even low to moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages may not offer any protection and it would be best to avoid drinking all together. The authors of the current study wanted to shed some light about this uncertainty and examined the association of different alcoholic beverage types with various health outcomes. The wine and sparkling wine drinkers will be pleased about the results.

Everybody agrees about the negative health effects of excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages. However, even though many research studies have shown positive health effects of low to moderate consumption, there is still a debate whether the protective effects on heart health are “real” or an artefact due to the study design. The international research team also had doubts and thus decided to investigate the different drink types and their association with various health outcomes.

They assessed data of a large UK study with half a million individuals (40-69 years) who were asked about their lifestyle, drinking pattern, type of preferred alcoholic beverage and various health aspects. All consumers of alcoholic beverages who did not have any cardiovascular disease and cancer at the beginning of the study were included. Former drinkers or abstinent individuals were excluded. Only those individuals who had a preference for either beer and/or cider, wine and/or sparkling wine or spirits but also consumed other alcoholic beverages were included in the analysis.

After an average follow up time of 7 years, the results showed that with an increasing weekly consumption of beer, cider and spirits, the total mortality and the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer increased significantly.

The situation was different for both champagne/white wine and red wine consumers: a consumption of up to 21 glasses (125 ml) per week was either associated with a decreased risk or no risk increase (total mortality and cardiovascular disease or cancer, respectively).

Comment from the Scientific Coordinator, Ursula Fradera:

Unfortunately, in this study the daily drinking pattern was not assessed. It is known that in the UK, larger amounts of alcoholic beverages are consumed on the weekends and very little or nothing during the week. Overall, this appears to be a moderate consumption, however, it is a lot riskier than drinking daily with the meals. Nonetheless, even with the current study criteria, wine and champagne drinkers seem to have lower health risks than those who preferred other alcoholic beverages.

Schutte, R et al, 2020, Drink types unmask the health risks associated with alcohol intake – prospective evidence from the general population, Clin Nutr;