Wine “minor components” and health: setting the record straight

Francesco Visioli

University of Padova, Italy and IMDEA-Food, Madrid, Spain

Moderate, i.e. 1-2 drinks/d for women and 2-3 drinks/d for men, consumption of alcohol is associated with lower all-cause mortality. Some investigators propose that wine is better than other alcoholic beverages because of the biological activities of its “minor components”. Most such molecules are phenolic in nature and might, indeed provide health benefits. This hypothesis is leading to several over-emphasized statements, largely based on in vitro experiments. The low bioavailability of wine’s (poly)phenols makes it unlikely that they can have major biological actions. The most notable example is that of antioxidant activity, which is often touted as important to health yet it is becoming less and less relevant to human physio-pathology. In this lecture we will carefully and analytically review the available literature and discuss whether are ethanol or wine components that explain the J curve associating alcohol consumption with lower incidence of cardiovascular disease.