Project 2.2.3

Informing wine consumers through understanding issues of wine consumption, health and nutrition

Project summary

The aim of this project is to generate and disseminate credible, evidence- based and scientifically sound information regarding wine and health/nutrition, facilitating informed decision-making by the wine industry, policy makers and consumers.

Latest information

National Wine Foundation projects
Two projects funded by the National Wine Foundation were completed during the year. The first, entitled An investigation into the price sensitivity of ‘at risk’ alcohol consumers, was designed to analyse the price sensitivity of at-risk alcohol consumers in a representative sample of the Australian population in the period 2013/2014. The project used data from the Spring South Australian Health Omnibus Survey, which surveyed 2,908 individuals aged 15 years and over. Respondents were asked about their level of wine consumption and any factors influencing changes in consumption. Results of the survey showed that regular consumers of light to moderate amounts of wine, particularly those aged over 55 years, were generally stable in the amount of wine that they drank from year to year. Levels of wine consumption were found to be less influenced by the price of wine than by other factors over the previous 12 months. Changes and choices in wine consumption of previously identified at risk groups for alcohol-related harms, that is, youth and older adults as well as excessive and heavy drinkers, were most influenced by the factors ‘health’, ‘family and friends’ and ‘employment’, for example, before price.

The findings about levels of wine consumption from the state-based survey were found to be consistent with those from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (AIHW NDSHS). Approximately one third (29.3%) of participants drank wine at least once per week. Of these, 8.1% of participants drank wine approximately daily (= 5 days/week). This observation was confirmed in a third study, the 2013 data from the triennial AIHW NDSHS for alcohol consumption that suggests that 6.5% of all alcohol consumers drink daily. The most common number of standard drinks usually consumed by participants was two standard drinks (33%) (where = two standard drinks/day is the lifetime risk guideline as defined by the National Health and Medical Research Council in 2009), followed by up to one drink (30%) and then three to four drinks (27%).

The second project entitled Analysis of the health and social benefits of wine in moderation was a literature review and critical analysis of the specific health and social benefits of moderate wine consumption as defined by the NHMRC guidelines of 2009. Its primary aim was to provide evidence-based information to educate, and thus empower, the public to make consumption choices away from abusive alcohol amounts and patterns.

The critical analysis has culminated in a series of individual review papers on specific relationships between wine consumption and each of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancers and cognitive decline/dementia. When overall or all-cause mortality is considered, there is solid evidence that moderate consumption of wine (equivalent to no more than 20 g alcohol/day) is lower risk than heavier consumption for the general population. When overall or all-cause mortality is considered, there is some evidence that moderate consumption of wine is lower risk than abstinence for the general population. However, the AWRI does not recommend that abstainers start drinking wine to achieve a health benefit. The reduced risk in all-cause mortality from moderate wine consumption is based on a significant reduction in risk for overall cardiovascular disease, a reduction in risk for diabetes and dementias, a mixed relationship for cancers and a linear increase in risk of accidents and injuries associated with moderate wine consumption. If the focus is on alcoholrelated cancer, however, then the risks associated with moderate wine consumption become more complex. The evidence is solid that wine consumption increases the risk of some but not all cancers. Some evidence suggests that wine does not contribute to, or may decrease the risk of, other cancers. The increases in risk of some cancers with wine consumption may be dose-dependent or there may be a threshold dose above which risk increases. It is not definitive that any consumption of wine causes all types of cancer. Considerably more clinical data need to be generated in large human studies.

Review of international alcohol guidelines
A summary and comparative review of international alcohol drinking guidelines and associated public health policy changes and directions has been undertaken. Recommendations on alcohol drinking levels considered ‘minimum risk’ for men and women exist in many countries globally. Official guidelines on alcohol consumption are usually produced by a government, public health body, medical association or non-governmental organisation to advise on levels of alcohol consumption considered ‘safe’, ‘responsible’, or ‘low risk’. While the definition of moderate consumption is relatively consistent in the medical literature based on a definition above which the risk of all-cause mortality increases (approximately 20 g alcohol/day for both men and women), there are some significant differences between countries’ definitions. For example, the definition for moderate daily consumption ranges from 8 g alcohol/day in Grenada and Guyana to 70 g alcohol/day in the Basque region of Spain for both men and women. In Australia, the definition for moderate daily consumption is 20 g alcohol/day for both men and women. In addition there is no consistency on the sizes of standard drinks across countries, which generally reflects differences in cultures and customs. A report summarising the review has been prepared for consideration by the Australian wine sector.

Other projects
The collaborative project entitled Resveratrol in the chemoprevention of colorectal neoplasia funded by Cancer Australia continued during the year. The project is investigating whether grape-derived resveratrol, administered in a moderate amount of red wine, reduces the risk of developing bowel cancer in human subjects. Plasma samples were analysed by the SA Metabolomics Facility for resveratrol and its primary metabolites. Results showed that resveratrol from wine is indeed absorbed into the body in measurable amounts. Analysis of further biological samples will be undertaken at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. The AWRI’s component of this project is now complete, apart from providing support for the production of a final report and associated publications.

Project Team

Con Simos
Creina Stockley

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