Lise Alschuler, N.D., F.A.B.N.O. blog post on nutrition and the holidays

By Lise Alschuler, N.D., F.A.B.N.O.

In anticipation of the upcoming festivities of the Holidays, a quick nod to wine is in order. The emerging take-home from the body of literature on the health impacts of wine is that moderate wine consumption extends lifespan. A recent study due out in the January issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs assessed the differing impacts of abstention, moderate drinkers who mostly consumed wine as their alcoholic beverage of choice, and moderate drinkers who preferentially consumed other non-wine alcoholic drinks.  The researchers found that wine consumption – either high or low was associated with reduced mortality risk compared with abstainers. Ok, no surprise there.  Then, they looked at various combinations of associations between the proportion of ethanol consumed as wine and mortality risk and the characteristics of the wine drinkers versus other alcohol drinkers. The bottom line was that wine drinkers, as opposed to drinkers of other types of alcohol, tended to lead healthier lives – they were less likely to smoke, exercised more, had better socioeconomic status and reported fewer health problems. The researchers discovered that if they only controlled for overall ethanol consumption, wine reduced mortality risk, however, when they controlled for all covariates, there was no association between wine consumption and mortality risk. Their conclusions? “Among older adults who are moderate drinkers, the apparent unique effects of wine on longevity may be explained by confounding factors correlated with wine consumption.” 

This latest study suggests that people who enjoy wine also have the means and inclination to exercise more often, avoid smoking, and likely eat a healthier and more balanced diet, have greater relaxation, etc.  In a somewhat round-about way, this study highlights the significant influence of socioeconomic status on health and longevity.  As well, this study is excellent rationalization to those of us who do enjoy wine, and, perhaps in an effort to make up for that indulgence, maintain a healthy diet and regularly exercise.   In any case, as we revel in the festivities of the Holidays and raise our glasses in a few more toasts than normal, it seems a prudent time to reflect on the overall balance of healthy habits that we have integrated into our lives. / / 

Reference: Holahan CJ, Schutte KK, Brennan PL, North RJ, Holahan CK, Moos BS, Moos RH. Wine consumption and 20-year mortality among late-life moderate drinkers. J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2012 Jan;73(1):80-8.