Wine drinkers may pick up more than groceries at their local supermarkets--they may pick up a way to better health. A new study has found that shoppers who buy wine also tend to buy foods that are better for them compared with what foods beer drinkers buy.
The research, from Denmark, found that wine drinkers purchased food products that more closely followed a Mediterranean-type diet, such as olives, fresh fruit and vegetables and low-fat dairy products. The grocery lists of beer drinkers, however, followed a more "traditional" Danish diet, one high in fatty meats, butter, chips and soft drinks, said the study.
"[The] variation in diet associated with the preferred drink may explain why wine has an additional beneficial effect on health," said the research, published online in the British Medical Journal.
Moderate consumption of alcohol in general has been linked to better cardiovascular health in numerous prior studies, but some of those have found that wine in particular has additional health benefits. Many scientists have attributed this difference to the higher levels of polyphenols in red wine. Resveratrol, for example, which is abundant in red wine, has been found to potentially contribute to lower cholesterol levels, alleviate some lung diseases, fight certain types of cancer, reduce the growth of skin melanomas and damage caused by sunburn and extend the longevity of some basic organisms.
This study, coauthored by noted wine researcher Morten Grønbæk, acknowledged that polyphenols may help keep wine drinkers healthy, but aimed to explore whether other factors may contribute to any additional health benefits associated with wine. Grønbæk has participated in previous studies that found that wine drinkers tended to have healthier diets and exercise habits than other types of drinkers, as well as higher incomes and IQs.
People who follow a Mediterranean diet, in which moderate amounts of wine are considered integral, may be less likely to contract deadly diseases and more likely to live longer despite their geographical location.
Grønbæk's team analyzed about 3.5 million shopping receipts, taken at random, from two major grocery chains in Denmark from September 2002 to February 2003. If someone purchased wine only, they were considered wine drinkers, and if they bought beer only, beer drinkers. The scientists assumed the alcohol purchased was for personal consumption. Liquor is not available in Danish supermarkets.
They found that wine drinkers bought a greater number of olives, fruits and vegetables, certain types of cooking oil and low-fat products. For example, 51 percent of wine buyers also picked up fresh fruit or vegetables. In contrast, 38 percent of beer drinkers did the same, along with 42 percent of those who did not buy alcohol.
Beer drinkers, on the other hand, bought more ready-made meals, sugar, soda, chips, cold cuts, pork, sausages, lamb and butter. For instance, 34 percent of beer drinkers picked up soft drinks with their shopping, while 27 percent of wine drinkers and 23 percent of those who didn't buy alcohol purchased soft drinks as well.
The authors cautioned that the middle class is likely to be overrepresented in the findings, since it is the largest socioeconomic group that shops at the two supermarket chains. Also, the lack of any background information on the subjects being studied--such as sex, marital status and education--may have provided a less clear picture on their consumption habits. In addition, the shoppers whose receipts were studied may purchase goods, including wine or beer, at places other than the supermarket. Therefore, those who did not purchase alcohol at these stores may not necessarily be teetotalers.
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