Alcohol-free wine is just as good for your heart as the real thing because ‘health benefits come from the grapes’, study finds
- There is ‘undeniable’ link between drinking wine and lower heart disease risk
- But researchers spotted the link in those who drank non-alcoholic wine
- This suggest benefit comes from antioxidants in grapes, rather than alcohol
It has long been said that a glass of wine a day keeps the doctor away.
But experts now say alcohol-free versions may give you all the health benefits of the real thing.
Researchers Anglia Ruskin University analysed data from nearly 450,000 people aged 40 to 69 to look at impacts of moderate alcohol consumption on their health.
They found a 40 per cent reduced risk of coronary heart disease among people who drank up 11 glasses of wine a week compared to non-drinkers and binge drinkers.
The same reduced risk was found among those who regularly drank non-alcoholic versions.
The finding suggests the benefits are due to the grapes in the wine and therefore debunks they myth that it’s the alcohol itself that has positive effects, the researchers said.
The link between drinking wine and reduce cases of coronary heart disease is likely due to the antioxidants found in grapes, rather than the alcohol in wine, researchers have found
Grapes are high in antioxidants called polyphenols, which can improve the function of the inner lining of the heart and increasing levels of protective cholesterol.
Drinking a moderate amount of beer, cider or spirits, on the other hand, was linked with about a 10 per cent increased risk.
The NHS recommends that adults drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week, which is around six pints of average-strength beer or 10 glasses of low-strength wine.
How much alcohol is too much?
To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level, the NHS advises men and women not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week.
A unit of alcohol is 8g or 10ml of pure alcohol, which is about:
- half a pint of lower to normal-strength lager/beer/cider (ABV 3.6%)
- a single small shot measure (25ml) of spirits (25ml, ABV 40%)
A small glass (125ml, ABV 12%) of wine contains about 1.5 units of alcohol.
But the NHS warns the risk to your health is increased by drinking any amount of alcohol on a regular basis.
Short-term risks include injury, violent behaviour and alcohol poisoning.
Long-term risks include heart and liver disease, strokes, as well as liver, bowel, moth and breast cancer.
People who drink as much as 14 units a week are advised to spread it evenly over three or more days, rather than binge drinking.
Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant are advised not to drink to reduce risks for the baby.
In the study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition, researchers analysed data from 446,439 people aged between 40 and 69 to look at the impact of moderate amounts of alcohol consumption on health.
Participants self-reported how much beer, cider, wine, champagne and spirits they drank per week.
Experts monitored their health status for seven years, including overall mortality, heart problems, cancer and and cerebrovascular disease – such as a stroke.
Those who drank four to five glasses of champagne or white wine or eight to 11 glasses of red wine had a decreased risk of ischemic heart disease, they said.
But the same finding applied to those who drank alcohol-free wine.
Dr Rudolph Schutte, an associate professor at the university and lead researcher of the study, said there is an ‘undeniable protective beneficial relationship’ and drinking grape-based alcohol.
‘This relationship is also seen for alcohol-free wine, so it suggests the benefits are thanks to the polyphenols in the wine rather than the alcohol,’ he said.
But positive associations between wine and health benefits are offset by other risks, especially from cancer.
Those who drank low levels of beer, cider and spirits had higher levels of heart and cerebrovascular disease, cancer and mortality, the study found.
Researchers said their findings ‘do not support the notion that alcohol from any drink type is beneficial to health’.
Dr Schutte said drinking alcohol, even at low levels, can be damaging to health.
Previous studies recommended that drinking alcohol three to seven days per week lower the risk of having a heart attack.
But these made inaccurate comparisons with non-drinkers or did not consider the type of alcohol consumed, he said.
Dr Schutte added: ‘A group of non-drinkers will contain individuals who abstain from alcohol due to various pre-existing health reasons, making this reference group surprisingly high-risk.
‘Comparing a group of low to moderate drinkers to this “risky” reference group of non-drinkers could wrongly indicate that alcohol is beneficial to health.’
Despite NHS recommendations not to drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week, the research shows ‘that even low levels of alcohol consumption can be damaging to our health’, he said.