Wine, Health, Science and Journalism: A Study in Headlines

I consume a lot of wine news. When I say a lot, I mean literally almost everything that’s published for free on the Internet about wine “passes by my desk” courtesy of Google Alerts, Technorati, a massive collection of RSS feeds, and more. Increasingly I get the opportunity to see how wine stories develop and spread through the Web’s news outlets, and it’s quite amazing to watch.

Recently I’ve been watching with fascination as the mainstream press does its usual unraveling of some recently released research results focused on wine drinking in women and weight gain. Specifically, I’ve been giggling at the complete lack of understanding we seem to have of the difference between correlation and causation, combined with the creative liberties of headline writing:

Moderate Drinking ‘Can Keep Women Slim’: The Chosun Ilbo

Glass of wine may keep women from gaining weight: New York Daily News

Bottoms up for skinnier bottoms: Independent

Women Who Consume Alcohol Gain Less Weight: Study: Huffington Post (blog)

A drink a day could help keep the pounds away: Globe and Mail

Cheers, Ladies! A Drink A Day May Keep the Pounds Away: ABC News

Moderate Drinking Linked to Weight Control: WebMD

Red Wine Lessens Obesity Risks In Females: Oneindia

Moderate drinking may curb pounds on women: Boston Herald

Women who drink moderately less likely to gain weight: USA Today

Glass Of Red Wine A Day May Keep Pounds At Bay: NPR (blog)

Study: Women who drink are less likely to gain weight: CNN

Study: Women who drink moderately tend to gain less weight in midlife: Los Angeles Times

Study: Women Who Drink Tend to Be Thinner: TIME

Why a glass a day WILL keep the doctor away…: Daily Mail

Women who drink more gain less weight: Washington Post (blog)

Alcohol ‘can help women stay slim’: The Press Association

Women who drink wine gain less weight?: Toronto Sun

Light Drinking Might Help Keep Women Slim: BusinessWeek

Wine may help women keep weight in check: Reuters

Moderate drinkers gained less weight than abstainers: Boston Globe (blog)

A tipple a day keeps obesity at bay: study: AFP

Women who drink wine ‘less likely to gain weight’: BBC News

Women who drink gain less weight than teetotallers:

Cheers! Wine refines the waist: Herald Sun

Wine isn’t fattening, ladies!: Hindustan Times

Red wine drinkers ‘gain less weight’: Ireland Online

Wine doesn’t make women fat, report claims:

Female wine drinkers at lower obesity risk: Times of India

Drink up girls: wine isn’t fattening: Times Online

Wine: The new weight-loss miracle?: The Week Magazine

Wine Doesn’t Make You Fat: That’s Fit

Cocktails ward off the bulge: Science News

Light-to-Moderate Drinking Keeps Women Slim?:

Alcohol & Weight Gain In Women: NewsChannel 9 WSYR

Regular and Sensible Alcohol Intake can Curb Obesity: Recent Study:

Red alert: A few glasses of wine are good for your hips: CultureMap

Study shows women can control weight with alcohol:

Drink wine for slim waistline: ABH News

Women Drinkers Less Likely To Gain Weight: Visit Bulgaria

Another addition to Moderate Drinking Benefits: Weight Control: NY Breaking

Moderate Drinking Could Control Weight: Tech Jackal

Daily Buzz: Want to Stay Thin? Have a Drink.: Woman’s Day (blog)

Occasional drinking may help women keep weight down:

Study: Some Drinking Women Less Likely To Gain Weight: Ozarks First

How could boozing help you lose weight?: New Scientist (blog)

Female Drinkers Less Likely To Gain Weight: WBAL Baltimore

Females Who Drink Moderately, Gain Less Weight: Study: TopNews United States

Study: Women who drink some may weigh less: WHDH-TV

Study Shows Women Who Drink Wine Lose Weight: (blog)

Drinking alcohol prevents overweight/obesity?: Food Consumer

Moderate drinking keeps women slim–study: The Money Times

Wine isn’t fattening for women, study finds:

Female Moderate Drinkers Gain Less Weight Over the Years: (blog)

Drinking Alcohol May Keep You Slim: dBTechno

Alcohol Keeps the Weight Away: (blog)

Light To Moderate Drinking Linked To Less Weight Gain In Middle Aged Women: Medical News Today

Womens’ obesity risks lowered with daily drinks, study finds: McClatchy Washington Bureau

Alcohol May Help With Weight Control: (blog)

Women Who Drink Moderately Gain Less Weight Than Abstainers, Study Shows: AHN | All Headline News

Wine Does Not Lead To Obesity, Research Reported: TopNews United States

Lose Weight…By Drinking Wine?: CNM News Network

Moderate alcohol link to less weight gain: Irish Health

Wine consumption reduces fat accumulation in females: TopNews

Female wine drinkers have lower obesity risk: Celebrities With Diseases

Drinking Alcohol Can Slow Weight Gain In Women: Best Syndication

Wine Keeps Women Slim, Study – Red or White Diet?: National Ledger

Moderate Drinkers Gain Less Weight, but Not Advised for Diet Plan: eMaxHealth

To your health! Women who drink red wine less likely to get fat:

Women who drink: Investor’s Business Daily

Women Who Drink Gain Less Weight: Bru Direct

Drinking Alcohol May Help Women Stay Thin: AOL News

Women Who Are Moderate Drinkers May Gain Less Weight Than Those That Are Sober: BETTER Health Research

Study Finds Women Who Drink Wine Gain Less Weight: WDIV Detroit

Red wine may help women shed pounds:

Drinking Wine May Help Women Keep Their Figure: eFitnessNow

Alcohol can affect woman’s ability to lose weight:

Alcohol May Help Fight Weight Gain In Women: Wine Spectator

Women Who Drink Gain Less Weight:

How to Lose Weight While Drinking: Tonic

Wine and women’s weight: NHS Choices

Study Finds Wine Won’t Make Women Fat: RedOrbit

Women Who Drink Moderately Seem to Gain Less Weight: CalorieLab Calorie Counter News

Women Who Drink Moderately May Gain Less Weight than Non-Drinkers: The Ledger (blog)

Moderate Drinking in Women Linked to Less Weight Gain: Medscape

Study: Red Wine Keeps Pounds Off: myGLOSS

Women Who Drink Gain Less Weight: New York Times (blog)

Wine ‘unlikely to make women gain weight’: Netdoctor

More good news for wine drinkers: The Economic Voice

Less weight gain by moderate-drinking women:

Laughable. Strange. Scary. I don’t know who said it, but it’s true that a little bit of information can be dangerous.

Comments (8):

  1. VA Wine Diva

    March 10, 2010 at 5:53 AM

    Thanks so much for calling out the absurdity of people not understanding correlation and causation. This is a major frustration of mine, and it’s nice to see a few of the bloggers I most respect appropriately framing these results. I should have a copy of the actual research article in my hands in the next day or two, and I look forward to figuring out what they actually found (that may not have made such a cool headline).

  2. Sunshine Mugrabi

    March 10, 2010 at 9:07 AM

    Health writers continue to make this mistake over and over again. It’s utterly painful once you recognize the problem. My favorite analogy: Whenever there’s a fire, a number of these big red trucks arrive on the scene. Clearly, we must work to reduce the number of trucks if we’re to have any hope of getting these fires to stop.

  3. David Honig

    March 10, 2010 at 12:25 PM

    I have the study. It found a direct correlation between increased alcohol intake and reduced weight gain in women. However, it did not adjust for income, and that almost certainly explains the findings. We wrote about it, comparing the findings to studies of socioeconomic status and obesity (as well as explaining why the same alcohol/obesity correlation is not found in men).

  4. susannah gold

    March 10, 2010 at 1:33 PM

    While that news made me smile, I believe it also mentioned that more drinking went with more smoking not just income adjustments and education, I believe we all know that the studies should be read and not just taken out of context. Perhaps all wine writers should have to know more about the science of wine and what it actually does to you body. If you have any research of the kind, please send it on. thanks.

  5. Liza Gross

    March 10, 2010 at 4:05 PM

    I checked out the WebMD story (thinking they should get it right) and they mostly did. The author was careful to point out that this was just an association and even though the study authors controlled for a number of factors known to influence weight (including age, race, total calorie intake, activity level, and smoking status) more research is necessary before anyone can say whether moderate drinking has a protective effect against obesity or if there are other lifestyle factors at work. Something to keep in mind is that journalists rarely write the headlines for their stories, editors do. And editors know what sells ;).

  6. Sondra Barrett

    March 11, 2010 at 9:04 AM

    Great list and I agree wine writers should learn about science, or at least interpreting it. When I was in grad school (biochem), my advisor used to say “Just because you see whose going into the house and smoke coming out of the chimney, you can’t assume what’s going on inside.”
    I loved the idea that drinking wine would prevent me from gaining weight but most, if not all wine and health studies, leave out the important aspects of lifestyle, stress, relationshps, shared meals – all of which influence weight and well-being.
    One more point, today Science Daily reported we have a 6th taste for fat. Those of us who have high sensitivity for fat eat less fatty foods and gain less weight. Where does our taste for fat fit into wine consumption?

  7. wolfgang

    March 20, 2010 at 11:57 AM

    Great post Alder — very funny. Thanks!

  8. Petro

    August 23, 2011 at 11:41 AM

    Great job, thanks. Post is outdated, but information still valuable. I found that wine is healthy for our hearing. Do you know that?

Comments are closed.