Wine Drinkers & Healthier Foods

Drinking wine is believed to provide greater health benefits than drinking beer. The additional benefits may be due in part to an associated healthier diet, researchers theorize.

Wine drinkers eat more olives, fresh fruits and vegetables, low fat dairy products, poultry and lean cuts of meat, according to a recent study. Beer drinkers were found to eat more pre-cooked packaged foods, sugar, chips, soft-drinks, cold cuts, sausages and fattier cuts of meat.

Shopping Habits Studied

Food and alcohol shopping habits were investigated by a team from the National Institute of Public Health in Denmark. Researchers analyzed 3.5 million transactions, chosen at random from 98 outlets of two major Danish supermarket chains over a six month period. They evaluated the link between the purchase of beer and wine together with various food items.

Customers were categorized as wine only, beer only, mixed, or non-alcohol buyers. Details of items bought, the number and price of the items, and the total charge for each customers transaction were recorded.

Wine Buyers Purchase Healthier Foods

The results indicate that people who buy and presumably drink wine purchase a greater number of healthy food items than those who buy beer, according to the authors. Wine buyers purchased more fresh, low-fat foods, while beer buyers bought more processed, high-fat foods.

The study results also support findings from the United States and France that indicate wine drinkers tend to eat more fruit, vegetables and fish -- and less saturated fat -- than persons who prefer other alcoholic drinks.

Other Lifestyle Factors

The health benefits of drinking wine may be due to a combination of specific substances in wine and different characteristics of people, researchers add.

Thus, it is crucial that studies on the relationship between alcohol intake and mortality adjust for other lifestyle factors besides eating habits, including drinking patterns, smoking, physical activity, education and income.

The Meditteranean Diet

If you want to enjoy a longer life, eat a Mediterranean diet: lots of vegetables, legumes, fruits and cereals, along with plenty of fish. Keep your intake of saturated fats low but your consumption of olive oil high. Avoid dairy products and meat -- and enjoy that glass of wine now and then.

Elderly Europeans who eat that way enjoy longer life expectancy, according to another study published online by the BMJ last year. The evidence suggests that such a diet may be beneficial to health.

Lower Death Rate

That study involved over 74,000 healthy men and women, aged 60 or more, living in nine European countries. Information on diet, lifestyle, medical history, smoking, physical activity levels and other relevant factors was recorded. Adherence to a modified Mediterranean diet was measured using a recognized scoring scale.

A higher dietary score was associated with a lower overall death rate. A two point increase corresponded to an 8 percent reduction in mortality, while a three or four point increase was associated with a reduction of total mortality by 11 percent or 14 percent respectively.

So, for example, a healthy man aged 60 who adheres well to the diet (dietary score of 6-9) can expect to live about one year longer than a man of the same age who does not adhere to the diet.

Plant Foods, Unsaturated Fats

The association was strongest in Greece and Spain, probably because people in those countries follow a genuinely Mediterranean diet, according to the authors.

Adherence to a Mediterranean-type diet, which relies on plant foods and unsaturated fats, is associated with a significantly longer life expectancy, and may be particularly appropriate for elderly people, who represent a rapidly increasing group in Europe, they concluded.

Rita Jenkins is a health journalist for Daily News Central, an online publication that delivers breaking news and reliable health information to consumers, healthcare providers and industry professionals:

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