Allegrini 2018

Wine and health, moderation is the key. History and common sense tell it, science confirms it

The messages of scientists and experts from the Symposium “Wine and health, between consumption and well-being”, in Naples, by Assoenologi

Science is sometimes required to demonstrate and reaffirm what common sense and empirical evidence have already affirmed and demonstrated over millennia (as demonstrated by the Greek classics, but also by the Bible, where wine is mentioned 224 times). In other words, rather than fear and prohibition, the key to physical and mental well-being is moderation and education. Obviously, this also applies to wine, which today risks being delegitimized and penalized in the broader context of alcohol, or, more specifically, the relationship between alcohol consumption and health. The message was reiterated yesterday in Naples by academics and researchers at the Symposium on “Wine and Health, Between Consumption and Well-Being”. This came just in the days when the European Commission, in a controversial manner, i.e. without taking into account the negative opinion of the European Parliament, authorised Ireland to include “healt warnings” on the labels of alcoholic beverages, similar to cigarette packs. As a follow-up to the messages of closeness to the sector of the Ministers of Health, Orazio Schillaci, who emphasized the value of wine and the Mediterranean diet, and announced informing and food education campaigns, and that of Agriculture and Food Sovereignty, Francesco Lollobrigida, who confirmed how the Italian and Mediterranean food model, and wine, which is “a gem of our country”, and dozens of scientific studies produced over the years, on different cases, linked to cardiovascular, neurological, diabetes, which have demonstrated how moderate consumption of wine (but also of alcohol in general), in the vast majority of situations and in the absence of specific pathologies, reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes, which are the first death cause in the world, and is preferable to not drinking at all and, obviously, to drinking too much, as explained by scientists and researchers such as Luc Djoussè, research director of the Department Institute of Medicine of the Harvard Medical School, Vincenzo Montemurro, cardiologist and member of the Board of Directors of the Italian Society of Cardiology, Pierre-Louis Teissedre, president of the OIV Health and Safety Commission, Giorgio Calabrese, dietician, president of the National Food Safety Committee of the Ministry of Salute, and Rosario Iannacchero, neurologist, and president of Società Italiana Studio Stroke, to launch a message that can be a good summary of what must be done to protect wine, but also of citizens’ freedom of choice, is in the conclusion of the report by Luigi Moio, oenologist and president of the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV).
“Instead of emphasizing consumption reduction, we should talk about rationalization, intelligent consumption, and responsible consumption. It is the only way, according to Moio, to avoid delegitimizing wine, which would pave the way for anti-alcohol movements, obscuring the truth about wine and causing more harm than good to public health. However, the strategy for preserving the wine's integrity and just defense cannot be based solely on the usual, albeit very valid but insufficient, arguments based on history, tradition, cultural, landscape, and tradition aspects, and so on. It is necessary to respond to scientific data with equal amounts of scientific evidence and reasonableness, and wine has all the credentials to take this path and easily defeat this latest attack”.
There have been studies cited for the benefit of those who maintain that wine consumed on a regular and moderate basis helps with many health-related aspects, from Italy, France (such as the historic one on the famous “French Paradox” by Renaud), the United States, but also from Asia, Scandinavia, and beyond. And all, it was reiterated, converge in a “obstinate and contradictory” direction, to quote Fabrizio De Andrè, to refute the one published in the highly criticized “Lancet” magazine, at the basis of the WHO theses, but also of the Commission that fights for the sacrosanct fight against cancer in Europe, and who claims that there is no safe level of consumption.
“But these are the times we live in. And we enologists - said the president of Assoenologi, Riccardo Cotarella - would never have thought of having to act as bulwarks, as defenders of Italian wine and not only. But we will not back down. We must assure all wine lovers that we will continue to defend this product, which is a symbol of Italy like no other. Wine is now regularly the target of insane, reckless attacks; it is now taken for granted, and these attacks are lethal and profound, declaring wine to be a completely carcinogenic product. However, the Mediterranean diet, which was recently designated a universal UNESCO World Heritage Site, allows a glass with each meal and is widely recognized as the healthiest. Impossible that they are all mad. To say no to this drift, science and irrefutable tools are required, which is why we’re here. Consumption must not only be moderate but also intelligent. We require precise answers; we will reveal them; we will be attacked; but we are not afraid of anyone; we do not lack courage. Wine is neither the source nor the cure for all ills. Wine, according to Giorgio Calabrese, is a liquid food with little alcohol; spirits, on the other hand, are alcohol mixed with other substances; we cannot speak of spirits in general; we must speak of wine and other spirits”.
And the data and reports illustrated by the researchers back this up. “One in every five people worldwide suffers from heart failure, with the main risk factors being male gender, smoking, a lack of physical activity, being overweight, and so on. If we look at the consumption of wine and spirits, considering that the dose considered moderate by the WHO itself is 30/40 grams per day for men or 2-3 glasses of wine, and something less for women, it emerges that, with a similar consumption, there are risk reductions between 20% and 60% for pathologies such as heart attack, hypertension and so on, in opposite the risk obviously increases with excessive consumption”, explained Luc Djoussè, research director of the Department of Medicine from Harvard Medical School. And this also applies to life expectancy, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease and other factors: “moderate consumption shows better beneficial effects than not only those who drink too much but also those who don’t drink at all”, added Pierre-Louis Teissedre, president of the OIV Health and Safety Commission.
And also for diabetes type 2, with moderate consumption the risk of developing it reduces, reiterated the nutritionist Giorgio Calabrese, who added: wine is not a drink, but rather a liquid food, similar to milk or oil. Wine is above all water, then alcohol, but it also contains many wonderful substances, such as polyphenols, that are good for you and that other alcoholic beverages lack. The Irish - Calabrese said - have the right to do what they do, they are overloaded with alcohol, and they must protect themselves. Europe’s mistake is to pass on the message that this is the case everywhere. It must be said that one drinks the water, and one savors the wine”. On the contrary, provoked Vincenzo Montemurro, investigating the beneficial effects of moderate wine consumption for the cardiovascular system: “the time has come for the cardiologist to recommend a glass of quality wine every day because it is good for you, but not before the age of 16 -18 years because the body lacks the enzymes needed to digest ethanol”.
With science which, thus, confirms, and will have to do so again, in order to deep knowledge as much as possible, about what everyone, after all, knows and has always known: “in medio stat virtus”.

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