Experts have expressed concern over a study which concluded that red wine is associated with a protective effect against COVID.
A Chinese study published in the journal frontiers, examined data including self-reported alcohol consumption on more than 470,000 people maintained in the UK Biobank database. Of those people, 16,559 were confirmed to have tested positive for COVID.
Overall, it found an increased risk of developing COVID, along with an increase in alcohol consumption. Studies have shown that long-term alcohol consumption can make someone more vulnerable to infection. But it also suggested that some types of alcohol were associated with a protective role against COVID, while others increased the risk.
It found that red wine consumers had 10 to 17 percent lower COVID risk than non-drinkers. On the other hand, it was also found that consumers of beer and cider had a seven to 28 percent higher COVID risk than non-drinkers. “That is, a higher intake of beer and cider corresponds to a higher COVID-19 risk,” the study said.
It added that “the protective effect of red wine for COVID-19 was significant regardless of frequency of alcohol consumption, but it played a protective effect only when subjects consumed alcohol above or twice the guidelines.”
The authors suggested that there are “many possible explanations for the findings,” including relatively high levels of polyphenols in red wine, which “have antioxidant properties.” He also suggested that red wine may have the benefit of “activating proteins that prevent cell death.”
The study said that it only looked at baseline alcohol consumption and that “we were not aware of potential changes during the COVID-19 pandemic” and also that the alcohol sub-type of ingredients was not considered.
While some news outlets have referred to the study as a “UK study,” it was actually carried out by researchers from two hospitals in China before being published in the journal. Frontiers in Nutrition On 3 January 2022.
Experts cast doubts
newsweek Spoke to several experts who have expressed doubts about the study’s findings.
Colin Angus is a senior research fellow in the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group at the University of Sheffield in the UK. He suggests that rather than red wine being a beneficial factor, it is the associated lifestyle and socioeconomic background of red wine drinkers that reduce the risk. . of COVID.
“The idea that the polyphenols in wine can reduce your risk of developing COVID by up to 17 percent is simply not credible,” he said. newsweek, “All this study tells us is that the same type of people who drink wine are also those who have a lower COVID risk because of many other factors unrelated to their drinking.
“Drinking a bottle of Bordeaux doesn’t help prevent you from getting COVID, not from being poor.”
Angus said that although the study authors took into account education level, employment status and a measure of deprivation called the Townsend Index, socioeconomic status is very complex and “notoriously difficult” to control.
“We know that the risks of COVID infection are associated with many things, including geography, ability to work from home, health, whether you have had a COVID vaccination etc. For many of these things There is also a strong correlation with socioeconomic status,” he added.
Angus’s point was echoed by Edward Hutchinson, a senior lecturer at the Center for Virus Research at the University of Glasgow. They told newsweek While the authors note that there would be “confounding factors” including socioeconomic factors, “it is not clear to me what steps they took to prevent their conclusions from being tarnished.”
Ian Jones, professor of virology at the University of Reading, said he was “not convinced” by the study, sharing concerns about confounding factors.
“The biggest risk is exposure to the virus in the first place and I note that wines and fortified wines are consumed in small groups or during beer and cider at home. [is generally consumed] So the risk is different in more mass gatherings outside,” he said. newsweek, “There are so many variables that even if models try to compensate for them, they fail. So, they studied, they got what they wanted, but it’s up to anyone to understand the result and I don’t buy it. . “
The US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that drinking alcohol “does not prevent or treat coronavirus infection” and may actually impair immune system function.
newsweek The study authors have been contacted for comment.
Benefits of red wine?
Both Jones and Angus also noted that the study is not unique; Several papers have suggested that red wine has some health benefits and sometimes point to its antioxidant properties.
But Angus said that there is “absolutely no convincing evidence that alcohol is better for you than any other type of alcohol,” adding: “What these studies have found instead is that well-being is good for you.” It’s good.”
Some studies have shown that a polyphenol known as resveratrol may have beneficial effects in small studies with rats. However, the amount of resveratrol in wine is so low that it is not possible to absorb the recommended therapeutic dose from drinking it, according to a 2016 study.
It has also been claimed that red wine can help people avoid heart disease, but the evidence for this has been described as weak by Dr. Kenneth Mukmal, an internist at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and the study for observation has been done. Rather than proving cause and effect, according to Harvard Medical School’s health blog.