Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wine is a food: New USDA Guidelines

There is a chapter in my book “Age Gets Better with Wine” called “Wine is a Food” because what I found in my research for the book that having wine with meals is key to unlocking its healthful properties. There is no question that people use food as a drug, hence the term “comfort food.” I would even make the case that. Given the epidemic of morbid obesity, the effects of food abuse far outweigh those of alcohol abuse. So if wine is indeed a food, what is the recommended daily allowance?


Though authorities have long shied away from explicitly recommending that people drink wine for better health, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently updated its policy recommendations to reflect the ever-increasing evidence of wine’s health benefits. Notably, mentions of the benefits of moderate drinking have begun to replace the admonishments about the ill effects of alcohol abuse. These two drinking patterns are distinct and separate, though it seems to have taken some time to reach the point where a discussion of this type occurs with federal agencies. Much remains to be done, but baby steps toward recognition of the epidemiologic evidence that moderate drinkers outlive nondrinkers on average are certainly more than welcome.

Wine drinkers not only live longer but are healthier too. A study sponsored by Medicare a few years ago clearly demonstrated that drinkers have lower health care costs, with wine drinkers in the lowest health care expenditure category. Dr. Curtis Ellison, a foremost authority on wine and health, has stated that the single most effective thing a person can do to reduce their odds of heart disease other than not smoking is to take up having a drink or two with dinner. When considering how hard it is to get people to eat a healthy diet, exercise, and take their blood pressure medication, that’s a pretty powerful and simple recommendation.

So if wine is a food, then what is the recommended daily allowance? It may be a good thing to have as part of a meal but I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for an RDA recommendation on the label. Wine’s nutritional value isn’t based on the traditional data that other foods are, but I would wager that wine does a lot more good than the vitamin and supplement pills that so many people take. Drink real wine, eat whole food. What could be better than that?
The USDA guidelines are available at: http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/DGAs2010-DGACReport.htm.

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