Health, Effects of Wine Consumption on

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Until the 18th century, wine played a central role in medical practice, not least because it was safer to drink than most available water, as outlined in medicine. But wine of course contains alcohol, and it and its primary breakdown product acetaldehyde are toxic to the body’s tissues. Its contribution to damage to the liver, pancreas, and brain, and to accidents, is well known. Less well known is that the incidence of certain cancers, wasting of nerves and muscles, blood disorders, infections, psoriasis, raised blood pressure, strokes, and infertility increases with heavy consumption. Alcohol consumption during pregnancy can affect the developing foetus, stunting its growth, and causing birth defects, and behavioural and intellectual problems (termed ‘foetal alcohol spectrum disorder’). This has resulted in a proliferation of health warning labels on wine bottles in many countries (see labelling).