Using smaller wine glasses could make people drink less, study says


Removing the largest wine glass serving reduces the amount of wine sold in bars and pubs, study finds. — Photo: gilaxia/Getty Images/ETX Daily Up

The size of our wine glasses could influence our alcohol consumption. That was the finding by UK researchers who conducted a four-week experiment in some 20 pubs in England. Their research demonstrated that less wine was consumed when the largest serving sizes – those larger than 125 ml – were withdrawn from sale.

The month of January is over, and so are the Dry, Damp and other such challenges that are a good way to start rethinking your alcohol consumption. Now commonplace in many countries around the world, these experiments – whichever variant is chosen – aim not only to raise awareness of the amount usually consumed, but also to help reduce alcohol consumption over the long term. A team of researchers from the University of Cambridge has also studied the subject, with the same objective, but with a far more surprising experiment.

More precisely, the researchers focused on the serving size of alcoholic drinks served in licensed premises. They conducted their research in 21 licensed establishments, mainly pubs, offering wine by the glass in quantities exceeding 125 ml (175 ml or 250 ml, to be precise). The study was conducted in four-week periods: a first period without intervention, a second during which the largest servings of wine were withdrawn from sale, and a third period without intervention.

Reduced consumption

Published in the journal, PLOS Medicine, the research showed that removing the largest serving of wine from the menu significantly reduced customer consumption. In detail, this led to an average drop of almost 8% in the amount of wine sold daily in the establishments concerned. Interestingly, the researchers point out that sales of beer and cider did not increase in parallel, suggesting that customers were not turning to these two other types of drinks to 'make up for' the reduced amount of wine.

In a statement, first author Dr Eleni Mantzari, from the University of Cambridge, said: "It looks like when the largest serving size of wine by the glass was unavailable, people shifted towards the smaller options, but didn’t then drink the equivalent amount of wine. People tend to consume a specific number of ‘units’ – in this case glasses – regardless of portion size. So, someone might decide at the outset they’ll limit themselves to a couple of glasses of wine, and with less alcohol in each glass they drink less overall."

"A meaningful contribution to population health"

However, restricting the servings of wine sold in bars and pubs on a large scale remains a complex measure to implement. Contrary to what the researchers thought, only four establishments reported complaints from customers, but the scientists point out that "a nationwide policy would likely be resisted by the alcohol industry given its potential to reduce sales of targeted drinks."

Another limitation of the Cambridge University study is that the researchers were unable to assess sales of other alcoholic beverages – apart from wine, beer and cider – making it impossible to determine whether customers compensated for this 'shortfall' with other types of alcohol.

Professor Dame Theresa Marteau, the study’s senior author, added: "It’s worth remembering that no level of alcohol consumption is considered safe for health, with even light consumption contributing to the development of many cancers. Although the reduction in the amount of wine sold at each premise was relatively small, even a small reduction could make a meaningful contribution to population health."

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the "harmful use of alcohol" is responsible for 3 million deaths worldwide each year, or 5.3% of all deaths. Of the 10 countries with the highest alcohol consumption worldwide, no fewer than eight are in the European Union. This has spurred action in the form of the EVID-ACTION project, initiated by the WHO, with support from the EU’s European Commission, aiming to raise awareness of the cancer risks associated with alcohol consumption, and to implement strategies to limit these risks. — AFP Relaxnews

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