Article by Subhash Arora of the Indian Wine Academy

A contentious new study by a psychologist at the University of Texas suggesting that people who drink regularly live longer than those who completely abstain from drinking, appears to be astounding and needs to be handled cautiously, writes Subhash Arora, who nevertheless recommends two glasses a day of wine for men and one glass for women regularly, preferably with food

The Research published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research and being reported by several media, found that those who did not consume any alcohol appeared to have a higher mortality rate, regardless of whether they were former heavy drinkers or not, than those who drank heavily.

A team led by Charles Holahan, a psychologist at the University of Texas, followed 1,824 participants between the age of 55 and 65 over two decades. The gender ratio of participants was conceded to be disproportionate since 63% of the subjects were males.

According to the research, 69% of the participants who abstained from drinking alcohol died during the 20 year observation period, in comparison to 60% of the heavy drinkers. Only 41% of moderate drinkers died within this time frame. This was even after adjusting for all covariates. Moderate drinking was defined as one to three drinks per day and associated with the lowest mortality rate.

These results were reached after the team controlled variables such as socio-demographic factors, health and social behavioural factors. “A model controlling for former problem drinking status, existing health problems, and key socio-demographic and social behavioral factors, as well as for age and gender, substantially reduced the mortality effect for abstainers compared to moderate drinkers,” notes the study.

The study did not differentiate between wine and other forms of alcohols. The report also does not indicate whether the study was sponsored by an alcohol related institution and as such should be taken with a pinch of salt and with an academic value.

Several studies have in the past 25 years, indicated heart benefits of wine due to two factors – the alcohol content and the anti-aging properties of wine due to the presence of resveratrol. Some studies have also shown better mortality rates. To that extent the study seems to validate earlier research but as always, moderation is the key. A study like this always has to account for other factors in the lives of the participants too; alcohol consumption is often connected to other factors.

Our suggestion and recommendation continues to be a controlled, moderate consumption of up to 2 glasses (150mL of 12.5% alc strength) of wine, preferably with food (wine is after all, a food product) and preferably red wine on a regular basis, especially in the 55-65 year age bracket considered by the study. I also feel that all such studies and the media reports must be asked to state the source of sponsorship of the study.