The benefits of wine consumption with regards to heart health have been widely documented, but a new study published in the August issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has confirmed that moderate consumption of wine can also have wider health implications.
A team led by John Barefoot of the University of North Carolina assessed the alcoholic beverage preferences of 2,864 men and 1,571 women, averaging 48 years old, taking part in the University's Alumni Heart Study. They discovered that wine was not only associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease - as many previous studies had shown - but that because it was also linked to an overall healthy diet, it was also implicated in a reduced risk of other diseases.
The Alumni Heart Study focused on people with a wide variety of alcoholic beverage preference (beer, wine, spirits or no preference) who were 99 per cent Caucasian, affluent, highly educated and from the same geographic region.
Barefoot's team discovered that health and lifestyle differences were greatest between participants who preferred wine and those who preferred other alcoholic beverages or were abstainers. Women reported healthier dietary habits than men, regardless of alcoholic beverage choice. Men and women who preferred wine consistently consumed less saturated fat and cholesterol, smoked less and exercised more than those who preferred beer, spirits or had no preference.
Abstainers, who made up 20 per cent of the subjects, have been shown in previous studies to have higher disease and death rates than moderate drinkers. Negative health and lifestyle factors among the abstaining subjects, including lower intake of fruits and vegetables and higher rates of smoking and red meat consumption, may explain why non-drinkers have poorer health than drinkers, the researchers wrote in the journal.
The study appears to show that the benefits of wine drinking may not be merely physiological; preferring wine as an alcoholic beverage may be part of an overall pattern that leads to better health. The authors suggest that future research should focus on dietary and lifestyle differences between those who drink and those who abstain, as well as on the relative health advantages of alcoholic beverage choices.