Health groups challenge red wine health claims

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 19th September 2011

Representing some of Australia’s leading health groups, the Alcohol Policy Coalition (APC) released a paper today challenging a commonly-held belief that red wine is beneficial for preventing cardiovascular disease.

According to the ACP’s paper, titled Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease and Alcohol Consumption the potential for any benefit to the heart from red wine is “misunderstood”.

The APC paper says that, although red wine contains antioxidants, it is “not a good source of antioxidants to prevent heart disease or maintain heart health”.

Members of the APC include the Australian Drug Foundation, Cancer Council Victoria, Heart Foundation, Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, and VicHealth.

Kathy Bell, CEO Heart Foundation, in Victoria said, “After reviewing all the scientific evidence it appears any positive effects of alcohol in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease have been hugely overestimated. In particular, red wine has no special, protective qualities when it relates to cardiovascular disease.”

“The Heart Foundation does not recommend red wine or other types of alcoholic drinks to prevent or treat cardiovascular disease. To reduce your lifetime risk of alcohol-related harm, you should drink no more than two standard drinks on any day,” Ms Bell added.

The paper’s release coincides with a meeting of the UN today to address the problem of non-communicable diseases, including those caused by alcohol consumption.

According to the APC, in Australia, five per cent of all cancers are caused by alcohol, including one in five breast cancers. Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows a sharp increase in wine consumption in Australia.

“It’s no surprise that wine consumption has gone up – price influences consumption and wine is taxed by value not alcohol content. So when Australians can buy cask wine for less than soft drink, it’s little surprise we have a A$15 billion drinking problem on our hands,” said Todd Harper, CEO of Cancer Council Victoria.

“But there is something the Government can do to help fix the problem – with an effective alcohol tax, Australia can lead the world in reducing alcohol related diseases, including heart disease and cancer.”

As previously reported by Australian Food News, the Australian Government is reviewing Australia’s taxation on beverages next month and there is speculation of the possible introduction of a system to tax drinks based on alcohol content with a premium price for more harmful products. However, it is unclear whether a premium price will always constitute a deterrent against high consumption.