Red Wine and Fall Risk

My worlds are colliding. By day, I am a nebbish vestibular specialist doing my darndest to figure out why people are falling over, or spinning around, or getting faint when they stand up. By night, I am an untrained, but passionate amateur aspiring wannabe sommelier and chef, pairing a Brunello with a Bolognese, or a Temperanillo with a Tagliatelle. Different worlds. No connection. Then….

I stumble across an article in the Huffington Post titled “Red Wine May Prevent Senior Falls, Study Finds.” My giddiness was evident. (By the way, did you know that giddiness has a ICD-9 diagnosis code? It’s the same one used for dizziness. 780.4). Okay, back on track. My giddiness got the best of me.

The title is so tempting, I stop what I am doing. I don’t remember if I was doing a Canalith Repositioning or stuffing a Cannoli at the time. I read the article, then I read it again. In order to avoid any signs of my deflating giddiness, I reprint the description of the study exactly as it appears in the Huffington Post:

In the study, researchers fed young and old lab mice a resveratrol-rich diet for eight weeks. During that period, the mice’s mobility was tested by charting their ability to cross a balance beam, with researchers noting how many times a mouse would fall.

At first, the older mice had much more difficulty than their younger peers. But when week four rolled around, the senior mice stayed on the beam more often, and their performance was close to that of the young mice.

The article goes on to report “It would take 700 four-ounce glasses of red wine a day for your body to absorb enough of the compound to see any positive outcomes.” By the end of the article, I am downright ICD-9 code 296.90 (Unspecified episodic mood disorder).

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate any efforts to try and reduce falls and the devastating effects associated with falls. I just think maybe the Huffington Post headline was a bit misleading. The magazine Wine Spectator handled it a bit more responsibly with a title: Red Wine’s Resveratrol May Improve Mobility in Seniors: Study found the compound reduced the risks of falls with older lab rodents.

What’s the take home message? Red wine has many health benefits, and a good Cabernet paired with a juicy medium rare New York Strip can restore me to my state of ICD-9 code 780.4 (Giddiness).




About Alan Desmond

Dr. Alan Desmond is the director of the Balance Disorders Program at Wake Forest Baptist Health Center, and holds an adjunct assistant professor faculty position at the Wake Forest School of Medicine. In 2015, he received the Presidents Award from the American Academy of Audiology.