Is drinking red wine bad for Indians? You make the call

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wineglasshealth.jpgFor all the talk about wine being good for your health, a new study finds that wine even small amounts of alcohol consumption harms Indians. These findings are based on a study covering 4,400 drinkers and an almost equal number of non-drinkers (the control group) in 10 cities by doctors from AIIMS, Centre for Chronic Diseases, Public Health Foundation of India and Madras Diabetes Research Foundation.


The report emphasizes that Indians who have consumed alcohol were at 40% greater risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD) than those who didn’t drink at all. Categorizing Indian drinkers into three categories namely heavy drinkers consuming more than 28 grams per day, moderate drinkers consuming 14-28 grams per day and light drinkers drinking less than 14 grams per day. Light drinkers had a 40% greater risk of CHD compared to non-drinkers with the chances increasing to 60% for moderate drinkers and nearly 100% for heavy drinkers. Each drink is equal to 14 grams of alcohol.
Dr Ambuj Roy, assistant professor of cardiology at AIIMS, told the Times of India which first highlighted the report, “Benefits of moderate alcohol consumption have been found among southern European populations from the Mediterranean region and Caucasians in Europe and North America. However, in Indians, it clearly causes harm just like in African Americans.”
So why does alcohol’s effect vary between races? “It could be genetic. It could also be because of drinking pattern. Of the people we studied, 55% were binge drinkers and had more than four drinks a day at one go. Such amounts can never be safe,” Dr Roy, the lead author of the study, said.
The study highlights a few other reasons explaining the findings. “There may be heterogeneity in effect of alcohol on CHD in different ethnicities and the protective effect may be absent or more modest in populations other than that in Mediterranean or South Europeans. This could be hypothesised to be due to unfavourable variant of alcohol dehydrogenase which is known to impact the effect of alcohol on CHD,” the study said.
“Secondly, drinking patterns may account for the difference in results. In particular, Mediterranean drinking patterns are characterised by the use of daily constant amounts of alcohol mainly in the form of wine which has been associated with protection against CHD as compared to irregular heavy or binge drinking that provides no favourable effect on CHD,” it added.
Here at Sommelier India, we believe that one should always drink wine in moderation. While we recognize that alcohol consumption can be harmful, we are also aware of the other research (highlighted on our website and in our print magazine) that drinking red wine in moderation can reduce blood clotting and reduce blood vessel damage caused by fat deposit. This is largely because red wine is a rich source of antioxidants flavonoid phenolics including resveratrol.
You can read about those other studies here. We hope that AIIMS will conduct research about wine’s relation to an Indian’s health specifically versus just doing broad alcohol consumption studies.

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