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Wednesday, 23 June 2021 10:33

"2nd Science and Wine Congress" - online from Porto

Early June 2021, the 2ndScience and Wine Congress - wine and olive oil production, the fluid aspects of the Mediterranean Diet” took place online from Porto. Besides topics such as reusing the polyphenols that appear through the wine and olive oil production, the latest scientific evidence of wine and health issues was particularly discussed.


Wine in Moderation as partner of the conference

At the beginning of the conference, George Sandeman, former president of Wine in Moderation and one of its founding members and  the scientific coordinator of the Wine Information Council (WIC), Ursula Fradera, presented the Wine in Moderation initiative. They both emphasized that the communication of wine and health issues needs to be based on scientific evidence. In her presentation, Ms. Fradera pointed out the importance of assessing the study results about wine and alcoholic beverages in the context of a healthy diet and lifestyle to draw objective conclusions.

With the example of a study and its misinterpretation, she explained that the political objectives/evidence often play a more important role in the media than the scientific evidence. Critical (lifestyle) factors such as diet, physical activity, drinking pattern (moderate vs. binge drinking), types of alcoholic beverage, etc. are not considered in the modelling studies that are typically found in the headlines. She appealed to the participants to analyse and evaluate the original studies in a critical and objective manner and not to rely on the media.




WIC scientific experts as invited speakers

Many of the WIC scientific experts presented the latest scientific evidence on various topics.

Prof. Ramon Estruch discussed the controversial topic of “Wine and cancer risk in the context of a healthy diet and lifestyle” emphasizing that the cancer risk needs to be carefully assessed while diet and other lifestyle factors need to be considered as well. Drinking a glass of wine with the meal and practising a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, not smoking, eating a healthy diet and keeping a normal body weight does not increase the cancer risk.

Prof. Mladen Boban covered the topic “Mediterranean diet – with and without wine?”. He explained that even though there is misleading communication in the media, wine significantly contributes to the overall beneficial effects of the Mediterranean diet and adherence to the Mediterranean drinking pattern of alcoholic beverages (particularly moderate total intake, consumption of wine with meals, avoidance of excess drinking occasions) maximizes benefits and minimizes alcohol-related health risks.



Prof. Lamuela-Raventos (Univesity of Barcelona) presented her research in the area of polyphenols, wine and weight management. She explained how overweight, and obesity have drastically increased worldwide in the last decades and that the consequent health problems such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer have also escalated. 

Wine contains so called empty calories, which means that they do not supply other nutrients, besides energy. These ethanol calories are the main reason why in a hypocaloric diet to lose weight, wine is often eliminated from the diet. However, based on her research results, she concluded that since wine has many polyphenols there is no reason to exclude it from the meal. A diet rich in polyphenols – such as the Med Diet – helps to maintain the body weight. Thus, moderate wine consumption is not associated with a higher body weight, and can even improve important cardio-metabolic blood parameter.


Competent and critical questions

 Another highlight of the conference was the presentation of Prof. Giovanni de Gaetano (Instituto Neurologico Mediterraneo Neuromed, Pozzilli, Italy). He tried to answer the questions:

  • Whether the benefits of wine are related to the alcoholic beverages or if other factors or circumstances are responsible
  • Whether these benefits are counteracted by possible harms or health risks for other diseases
  • Whether the method of the Mendelian randomisation (method in epidemiology investigating the influence of risk factors while considering genetic parameter) finally confirms that, on the one hand, wine and other alcoholic beverages cause cancer and on the other hand, wine is protective against cardiovascular diseases and total mortality.

He concluded that independently of the method, similar results have been found and the benefits of moderate wine consumption have been shown. However, only a randomised controlled trial can bring the ultimate proof.

His advice at the end

  • Wine is not a drug and should never be taken to avoid disease (Teetotalers should keep on abstaining.)
  • Who drinks moderately and regularly should continue to do it with taste, pleasure and culture, in a convivial context and within a healthy diet.
  • Who drinks in excess or irregularly (binge-drinking) should stop immediately.
  • Do not smoke, not even in moderation.


Despite the circumstances the congress had to be organised in - due to the pandemic- it was filled with interesting presentations – including a virtual coffee break. The scientific evidence of health benefits when consuming wine moderately in the context of a healthy lifestyle and a Mediterranean drinking pattern were confirmed, while the health risks of excessive consumption were also clearly highlighted.