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Wine Drinking Linked to Lower Risk of Tremors

Elderly Italians who drink regularly tend to shake less, study finds

Jacob Gaffney
Posted: April 27, 2011

Mention essential tremor, and most people give you a blank look. But for nearly 5 percent of seniors, uncontrollable trembling is a part of life. The good news, a current study suggests, is a lifetime of drinking red wine significantly reduces the risk of essential tremor, the official name for a pattern of involuntary, continuous movements that intensify with age.

The research comes from data gathered from neurological clinics across Southern and Central Italy. According to the research, published last week in the Wiley medical journal Movement Disorders, four or five glasses of red wine per day, for 30 years or so, provides the most benefit.

In fact, when the scientists compared nearly 100 married couples, where one spouse is healthy and the other suffers from essential tremor, those who drank four or five glasses of red wine daily had an 86 percent lower risk of developing tremors. At three glasses per day it stood at a 65 percent lower risk.

The text suggests that the antioxidants in red wine provide a long-term protective effect, but admits the results are by no means definitive. For one, studies on essential tremor, which occurs in 4.6 percent of people aged 65 years and over and may be linked to Parkinson's disease, are few in number. Previous studies have shown that alcohol is not a risk factor in developing Parkinson's disease. However, the jury is still out on any potential protective effects.

The study itself contains a few limitations. For example, of the 22 wine-drinking subjects who developed essential tremor during the study, 19 fit the lifestyle profile of the category with the least risk; drinking more than three glasses of red wine daily for more than 30 years.

"The results of our study must be interpreted cautiously," the authors write. "Case-control studies, in fact, are generally prone to several kinds of bias. Larger ad-hoc studies are still needed to assess the role of alcohol drinking as a protective factor for developing essential tremor."

Douglas Pendleton
Zionsville, Indiana —  April 27, 2011 6:36pm ET
I am 62 and have had an essential tremor all my life. At 21 a doctor told me not to be a brain surgeon so I didn't worry about. But it got worse as I aged and I asked my MD about it at 40. He asked "does it go away when you have a drink?" That's how I know it it's an essential tremor. Sure enough I had two glasses of wine and I was steady as a rock and wondered why I had never noticed that before.

Unfortunately it's not the antioxidants, it's the alcohol! After that the wine business seemed a natural fit...
Ron Wallace
Birmingham, AL —  April 28, 2011 12:55am ET
The article states: "According to the research, published last week in the Wiley medical journal Movement Disorders, four or five glasses of red wine per day, for 30 years or so, provides the most benefit."

That amount, assuming a standard four-ounce pour, is well over one-half a bottle a day --- and the article specifies RED wine, while the imbibber may also drink white wine. Nothing was said about the study monitoring sclerosis of the liver in the patient sample. Finally, this article reminds me of stories about the dispensing of "medical cannabis."
Art Taylor
Kelligrews, Newfoundland, Canada —  April 28, 2011 7:40am ET
Any excuse to drink more wine. Bring it on.
Steve Walker
Raleigh, NC —  April 28, 2011 4:27pm ET
I'm with Art Taylor; I wasn't looking for any more good reasons to drink wine but I'm happy to learn about them when they occur!

Mitch Frank
New Orleans —  April 28, 2011 5:19pm ET
Writer Jacob Gaffney replies:

"The wine was predominantly red because that is what the population of Central and Southern Italy (the study population) drinks primarily, which is why the authors suggest an antioxidant link. It may be the alcohol, as reader Douglas Pendleton suggests. Perhaps this will be explored in a future study focusing on a population where white wine is more common.

The study did not look at the risks of cirrhosis, but the risks of heavy drinking are well-established. The authors are not urging anyone to abuse alcohol."

Thanks to our readers,
Mitch Frank
News Editor, WineSpectator.com

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