Wine Drinking and 25 Years of Crying Wolf

wellmademanhattanThe other day a friend posed this question to me: If you knew that stopping drinking alcohol right now would mean that while you’d still die at around 85 years of age, you would actually live one year longer than if you kept drinking alcohol?

I didn’t have to think much about that question. For anyone who has ever consumed a Manhattan at 3:00 in the afternoon at the Campbell Apartment the idea of giving up Manhattans and Old Fashions for one more year of decrepitude isn’t a good bargain. However, I thought about the question more toda, when I read about yet another study concerning the “French Paradox”.

This month next year it will be 25th anniversary of the French Paradox broadcast on CBS’s “60 Minutes”. Morley Safer’s segment described the protective effect Frenchmen procure from drinking higher amounts of red wine. Who knew that one segment on this iconic pop culture television news show would have spurred 25 years of research into the subject resulting in the following conclusion: “Red-wine-is-good-for-you-Wait-no-it’s-not-actually-good-for-you-It’s-only-good-for-you-in-moderation-Hold-on-wine-drinking-is-bad-for-you-Oh-wait-all-alcohol-is-good-for-you”.

In fact, the numerous, varied and differing conclusions drawn from medical and scientific studies focused on the “French Paradox” since 1991 as well as from reviews of studies has produced what might be the most significant example of crying wolf modern culture has witnessed.

After the “60 Minutes” broadcast sales of red wine increased as though Americans believe they had been gifted a Magic and Delicious bullitt. How often do you hear that something you really love to do will have a profoundly positive impact on your health and longevity?

Today I read that an Australian medical and scientific researcher has done a study of the studies on wine consumption and health and discovered that the idea at moderate consumption of wine is good for your health just ain’t true. More precisely, Professor Tanya Chikritzhs states there is a:

“growing likelihood that widespread bias and confounding … epidemiological literature has underpinned spurious protective associations, warranting an urgent repositioning of the status of ‘moderate’ alcohol use as a protective agent for health….If there is a protective effect, it has been overestimated and is smaller than we thought. If it exists, you can get it from much less, half a standard drink a day, and you can probably get the same effect from drinking grape juice, without the downsides.”

No one is going to care about nor listen to this latest pronouncement on the connection between drinking wine and one’s health. We have been hearing this as well as the opposite of this for 25 years. What’s interesting is that all this confusion has led many a wine drinker to simply conclude, “drink in moderation”.  This seems like a rational conclusion given the contradictory conclusions on the subject that have been floating about for 25 years.

If all goes well for me, I’ll be sipping on really well made Manhattan when I close my eyes for the last time. Always wanting to be a good guest and patron, I’ll hopefully have the presence of mind to drain the glass and carefully sit it on the table before drifting off (No one wants to clean up after a dead man).

What I won’t be thinking about at that moment, however, is an extra year I could have had if I just had given up Manhattans, Oregon Pinot Noir and New York ciders earlier in my life.


5 Responses

  1. Nicholas Karavidas - November 9, 2015

    …not so sure about the ‘no one is going to care about…’ comment. As the next gen comes into the ranks, they’ll want to discover why they should be consuming alcohol (namely wine) all on their own. Let’s keep the ‘hype’ coming & let the Gen Z’er’s ‘discover’ why they should consider wine as their beverage of choice.

  2. Bill McIver - November 9, 2015

    I’m with you, Tom! But, I do try to avoid a martini (Spy Hop gin, of course) when I’m having wine with dinner…don’t get the martini often because I gotta have wine with dinner!

  3. David Vergari - November 9, 2015

    My last sip would be a marvelous glass of champers (Keynes had it right).

  4. Jeff Kralik - November 10, 2015

    There are a few great pleasures in life that I am just not willing to give up: bacon, butter, and champagne. If I give it all up to spend an extra year with a cane and hearing aids, I would see that as a punishment, not a reward.

    Any one of us could be hit by a bus tomorrow….

  5. Tom - November 14, 2015

    What I don’t get is why people jump on the tiniest bit of “good” news about wine and health, no matter how tenuous. Isn’t it enough that wine tastes good? Why does it have to be a miracle drug, too?

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