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How You Pour Wine Can Affect How Much You Drink: Study

10/01/2013 11:19 EDT | Updated 10/01/2013 11:20 EDT
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Understanding environmental cues like the size and shape of a wine glass and the way it's poured can help wine lovers drink in moderation and avoid overconsumption, say researchers in a new study.

While programs like MyPlate in the U.S. offer consumers guidelines on portion control in food, the concept of alcohol intake is ill-defined, despite the fact that overconsumption of alcohol carries more immediate and serious consequences, said researchers in a joint study from Iowa State and Cornell universities.

To measure the influence of the size, shape and colour of wine on serving sizes, scientists recruited 73 college students of legal drinking age who drank at least one glass of wine a week.

The students were instructed to pour themselves a normal serving of wine at several different stations where researchers manipulated environmental cues and measured their impact. When glasses were wider, for example, participants poured nearly 12 per cent more wine into their glass.

The same was true when students poured wine while holding their glass aloft compared to pouring the wine into glasses which were placed on a table: participants were more heavy-handed, adding 12 per cent more alcohol. White wine lovers may also want to be extra vigilant when serving themselves, as researchers found that participants poured 9 per cent more wine in their glass compared to red.

The theory? A high contrast in colour -- red wine in a clear glass -- serves as visual aid for portion control. "If you want to pour and drink less wine, stick to the [clear] wine glasses and only pour if your glass is on the table or counter and not in your hand – in either case you'll pour about 9-12 per cent less,” said researcher Brian Wansink.

The U.S. study, published in the journal Substance Use and Misuse, builds on previous research which found that background lighting can also influence the way we taste wine. The 2009 study out of Germany found that red or blue ambient light enhanced the wine drinking experience compared to green or white light.

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