Is Abstinence from Red Wine Hazardous to Your Health?


Arthur L Klatsky, MD

Spring 2007 - Volume 11 Number 2

A Very Public Message

Hardly a month goes by without the appearance of a research finding suggesting that drinking red wine is good for you. The media publicity is never nuanced or subtle, so the headlines blare. Here are several recent ones: "Procyanidin-rich red wines reduce heart attack and mortality," "Resveratrol, a red-wine ingredient, improves health and survival in mice on a high-fat diet," and "Cabernet sauvignon red wine reduces the risk of Alzheimer's disease." With the hint of greater longevity what non-red wine drinker wouldn't feel pressure to start a red wine habit? What person over age 65 years wouldn't consider a lifestyle change that promised a lower chance of Alzheimer's? The public has heard the implied message. A 60 Minutes TV broadcast (CBS: 1991 Nov 17) attributed lower heart attack risk in France partially to red wine. This explanation of the "French Paradox" (low coronary disease death rate despite relatively unfavorable life-style habits) has become widely known. Red wine sales in the US skyrocketed in the 1990s and remain high. In a recent Kaiser Permanente (KP) survey, 80% of those interviewed had heard of presumed benefit from alcohol and half of these volunteered that this was true only of red wine.1


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