Student - May 7, 2009

NEW EVIDENCE: A LITTLE WINE DOES YOU GOOD

Half a glass of wine a day raises your life expectancy, claims Dr. Martinette Streppel in The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. Although it has been known for some time that moderate alcohol consumption has a positive impact on health, the Wageningen PhD graduate’s research findings hit the headlines at home and abroad.

Streppel explains this: ‘What is new about this research is that it looks at exposure in the long term. We were able to examine data about alcohol consumption over a period of forty years.’ Moreover, it was known that alcohol had certain protective effects, but Streppel examined the effects of beer, wine and spirits separately. ‘Wine does seem to have some extra benefits. This could be because of the polyphenols in wine, but that is beyond the scope of this study.’

Streppel used data from the Zutphen study, in which 1400 men were followed for forty years. Their smoking, drinking and eating habits were documented, and also any illnesses and, in some cases, causes of death. This latest interpretation of the data set (which has already generated evidence that fibre has short-term benefits and that you are better off smoking a pipe than cigarettes) suggests that fifty-year-old men who drink half a glass of wine a day have a higher life expectancy than teetotallers. Drinking twenty grams of alcohol a day increases life expectancy by two years. If you also consume two grams of alcohol obtained from wine, you can add three years to that.

Streppel: ‘This is the first study to measure the effects of absolute alcohol consumption and of the type of drink on life expectancy. It is particularly important that we measure consumption at several different points in time, because this means there are fewer measurement errors than in other studies. Like this you can measure both long-term and short-term effects.’ Conclusion: ‘Wine is healthy in the long term too.’ / Nicolette Meestadt

Martinette Streppel was awarded her PhD on 24 April by Professor Daan Kromhout of the Human Nutrition department.

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