Allegrini 2024

Drinking wine in moderation is better than being a teetotaler. Science and the “J Curve”

IRVAS and UIV In Brussels at “Moderate Wine Consumption & Mediterranean Diet” analyzed consumption and health.
The “Wine & health” report divides opinions

It is a very old debate which will probably never find a meeting point among the various factions. However, the debate will continue because science continues to go forward and will always be able to inform us of something new and constructive to add to a story made up of many chapters. The debate is about the consumption of wine, "demonized" by some people and strenuously defended by others. This topic is even “hotter” in a period in which a driving force product of many important economies, Italy and France first and foremost, is in decline, brought down by new health styles as well, which seem to have cancelled what is part of the history of people and synonymous to culture, landscape and territorial values. However, there are half measures that most of the time represent the path that leads to common sense.
The European Union is the world's largest wine producer. But, at the continental level, many people have often accused it of being bad for your health, regardless of the quantities consumed. Does science agree with this position? The issue was addressed in Brussels, at the conference, “Moderate Wine Consumption & Mediterranean Diet”, where International experts participated, including Attilio Giacosa, professor of Gastroenterology and Digestive Endoscopy and Gastroenterologist at CDI (Italian Diagnostic Center, ed.) in Milan and member of the Scientific Committee of IRVAS, the Institute for Research on Wine, Food and Health. He spoke on the topic of the general beneficial effects of wine, and critical issues in scientific literature. It has been revealed that wine is certainly an alcoholic drink, and as such, it is recommended to consume wine in a moderate and responsible manner. Therefore, reporting indications IRVAS has given for adults, the recommended doses are two glasses of wine a day for men and one glass for women.
“Based on Italian and International epidemiological studies, it has already been widely emphasized that habitual and moderate consumption of wine throughout adult life, and combined with correct eating habits, is not harmful”, Giacosa explained, “and taking into consideration, specifically, the cause-effect relationship between moderate intake of wine and health, it is absolutely correct to refer to the concept of the "J Curve", in relation to science. As a matter of fact, in various International studies, the relationship between alcohol consumption and mortality is identified with a “J” shaped curve. This curve shows that drinking wine in moderation reduces mortality compared to abstaining (the lower curve of the “J”). Mortality increases dramatically, instead, as alcohol consumption increases (the vertical section of the “J”). This curve is used for CV diseases (cardiovascular, ed.) and for cognitive disorders. Moreover, it is essential to point out that in this case, the data was based on comparing both abstinence and abuse”. This clarification was welcomed as “definitely relevant”, considering that “in the past few years, research has continued to highlight several scientific biases that have characterized many studies, such as “under-reporting” alcohol intake; that is, not taking into consideration the teetotaler population in the data”, IRVAS explained. “The validity of the J Curve has been largely questioned over the years”, Attilio Giacosa pointed out, “because scientific research is continually updated on the basis of new evidence, and it is thereby able to modify its certainties”. An example of this is what happened to Lancet, one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world. In 2018, the journal published a study by the International GBD (Global Burden of Diseases) Group, according to which there was no daily dose of alcohol that reduced the risk of diseases, and therefore zero tolerance was desirable”, IRVAS pointed out, and then added, “in July 2022, Lancet magazine again proposed a new study by GBD3, which, using a scientific method, compared a group of consumers and a group of teetotalers, that not only changed the focus, but demonstrated that in adults aged 40 and over the cause-effect relationship between moderate alcohol intake and the risk of disease is not linear, but rather a J-curve. The GBD scholars have therefore confirmed the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption, in relation to the risk of incurring the 22 pathologies the survey examined”.
Professor Giacosa reminds us that “the position of the WHO, according to which, “no level of alcohol is safe for our health”, is based on the 2018 Global Burden of Disease research, not considering the subsequent conclusions of the GBD. I don’t want to fuel the debate, which demonizes moderate consumption of wine, equating it to spirits and tobacco due to its dangers to health. It is now clear instead, that it promotes longevity, and reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cognitive disorders. Of course, this does not mean that non-drinkers should start drinking to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease or diabetes or to reduce age-related cognitive degeneration and to reduce the risk of mortality. However, epidemiological evidence has indicated that there is no reason to suggest to those who drink wine in moderation, to stop”.
At the end of the conference in Brussels, organized by ICE - Agenzia, in collaboration with UIV (Italian Wine Union, ed.), Lamberto Frescobaldi, president of UIV and head of one of the leading Italian wine companies, the Frescobaldi Group, said, “according to the WHO, today wine represents only 11.7% of the total alcohol consumed in the world, 44.8% is attributed to spirits and 34.3% to beer. In the European Union, consumption has been declining since 2008 and has registered overall -24% decline between 2010 and 2020. This is an essentially moderate consumption model, especially in Italy, where the entire sector actively participates in promoting responsible drinking. Italian wine”, Frescobaldi continued, “is, and wants to be acknowledged an ambassador of the European Union's heritage, an asset, in terms of biodiversity, landscape protection, tradition, history, craftsmanship, lifestyle, and definitely economic”. Considering the direct and related supply chain, the UIV president recalled the analysis presented at Vinitaly 2023 by the UIV-Vinitaly Observatory and Prometeia. Made in Italy wine provides employment to almost 900.000 people in 530.000 companies, and reached a total turnover in 2022 of more than 30 billion euros. It is a “production directed” industry that has a very high propensity for exports, and represents a fundamental lever for the survival of several territories. “We want to work together with the European institutions, not only to improve knowledge about moderate consumption of wine”, the UIV president, Frescobaldi concluded, “but also to transfer attention to transparency and the protection of our products that distinguish our sector to the legislative level. We are well prepared and ready to support evolution and change, as long as they are based on the assumptions of quality and sustainability that enhance our work and our territories”. The conference was also attended by Mauricio Gonzalez Gordon, president of CEEV, and the MEP Paolo De Castro, and in addition to Attilio Giacosa, professor of Gastroenterology and Digestive Endoscopy and Gastroenterologist at CDI (Italian Diagnostic Center, ed.) in Milan, the scientific contribution of the scholars Ursula Fradera and Ramon Estruch.

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