Thursday 14 December 2017

The terrible perils of large wine glasses

Wine drinking in the good old days

It's around this time of the year that the British Medical Journal publishes its annual spoof article to show that it's got a sense of humour. These parodies become harder to spot every year as the quality of its general output diminishes. This 'study' is a case in point.

As reported by the BBC and others, the BMJ has got into the Christmas spirit by moaning about the size of wine glasses. The lead author of the offending article is Theresa Marteau, a nanny state halfwit who ticked enough temperance boxes to be put on the alcohol guidelines committee.

Over the years, Marteau has somehow found a way of getting grant money to carry out worthless research into the size of wine glasses, fizzy drink bottles and tableware (see here, here, here and here for a small sample). She generally concludes that people eat/drink more from larger plates/glasses and, being a meddling ratbag with too much time on her hands, thinks that the government should do something about this.

The BMJ article is her latest attempt to rally doctors behind her mad campaign. After describing the Christmas period as 'the culturally legitimised deviancy of festive drinking', she offers a series of guesses and hunches about the 'population health' impact of large wine glasses .

Environmental cues such as the design of drinking glasses—particularly their size—may also have contributed to increased drinking, particularly of wine... 

...plate sizes have increased over the past 100 years, likely contributing to the prevalence of obesity and overweight... 

The amount of alcohol people drink, particularly wine, has increased sharply since the 1960s. Along with lower prices, increased availability, and marketing, larger wine glasses may have contributed to this rise through several potentially co-occurring mechanisms.

...the amount of pure alcohol that wine drinkers consume has likely risen in line with larger glasses.

The only thing Marteau et al. are able to show convincingly is that wine glasses have got bigger in the last 300 hundreds. 

According to this chart, the average size of a wine glass is currently 450ml and some wine glasses exceed 800ml. 

Obviously, people are not putting a pint of wine in their glasses. If Marteau et al. spent a bit more time drinking wine and a bit less time worrying about it, they would know that drinkers prefer big glasses because it helps the wine breathe and releases the aroma. 

Perhaps unwittingly, the BBC have used a picture of modern wine glasses which nicely illustrates typical servings.

There is a slight acknowledgement of the benefits of larger glasses when Marteau et al. say...

Larger wine glasses can also increase the pleasure from drinking wine...

To any reasonable person, that would be case closed. If it improves wellbeing, it should be encouraged. But Marteau et al. immediately follow this by saying...

...which may in turn increase the desire to drink more.

Hilariously, they cite one of Marteau's own studies to support this assertion but, alas, it doesn't actually support it at all...

RESULTS Wine drunk from the larger, compared with the smaller glass, was consumed more slowly and with shorter sip duration, counter to the hypothesised direction of effect.

CONCLUSIONS These findings provide no support for the hypothesised mechanisms by which serving wine in larger wine glasses increases consumption.

You'd think peer review would pick things like this up, wouldn't you? 

Having made the mundane observation that wine glasses have got bigger, they have to admit that...

We cannot infer that the increase in glass size and the rise in wine consumption in England are causally linked. Nor can we infer that reducing glass size would cut drinking.

But a total inability to demonstrate cause and effect is no reason not to legislate in the world of 'public health' and so they conclude that...

...regulating glass size as part of local licensing regulations would expand the policy options for reducing drinking outside the home. 

I can only assume that this means they want it to be illegal to sell wine in a glass that the government thinks is too big. The intention of this epic micromanagement of people's lives is, it seems, to denormalise large wine glasses... 

Reducing wine glass sizes in licensed premises may also shift the social norm of what a wine glass should look like, potentially influencing the size of glasses people use at home—where most alcohol, including wine, is drunk.

'What a wine glass should look like', FFS!

Encouraging [forcing? - CJS] wine producers and retailers to make non-premium bottles of wine available in 50 cL and 37.5 cL sizes, with proportionate pricing, may also encourage drinkers to downsize their wine glasses so that one bottle fills more glasses.

Yeah, that'll work.


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