Skip to main content

Wine is a food group

Why are wine’s maximal health benefits related to consuming it with meals? It’s well known that wine with dinner on a regular basis is best, and understanding the role of wine as a food can help illuminate wine’s larger role in health. A central puzzle about wine and health is how much is due to biochemical substances such as resveratrol.  On the other hand, to what degree wine drinkers do other healthy things that can either compensate for the detrimental effects or amplify the good ones? People who regularly have a glass of wine with dinner more often eat in moderation, prefer healthier foods, and deal better with stress.

Wine with meals is associated with other healthy habits

A few recent studies bring clarification to the issue. One from the University of Helsinki in Finland reported the results of a long term population study evaluating drinking patterns and subjective well-being. Although a comparatively small percent of Finns have wine with dinner on a regular basis, those who did recorded better health, less psychological stress, and tended to be of higher socioeconomic status. Those who drank only wine also had fewer episodes of risky drinking behaviors such as bingeing. This type of study, while affirming the role of moderate wine drinking as a healthy thing, also suggests that lifestyle patterns are important.
It also illustrates why there are sometimes contradictory recommendations about wine and health; the pattern of drinking matters more than the amount, up to a point, but not all studies make this distinction. Another recent study, this one from the University of Split School of Medicine in Croatia, looked more deeply into the question. After reviewing available data from other studies, they found a clear correlation of wine with meals to maximal health benefits. The authors speculated that several factors such as the effect of food on alcohol absorption could be involved.

Why wine with meals makes food more healthy

The most telling evidence comes from a clinical trial conducted by the University of Rome Tor Vergata in 2014. This study measured the effects of red wine on post-meal oxidized cholesterol levels and expression of genes involved in inflammation. In order to see what the independent effects of wine were, they compared a McDonald’s meal to a Mediterranean diet meal, each with and without red wine. There was a clear benefit of wine with each meal type. So having a glass or 2 of wine makes even junk food better for you, pointing to biochemical properties of wine as the mediator of its health benefits. In other words, wine is more than a marker for a healthy lifestyle. Wine is a food.
1.       Oksanen A, Kokkonen H. Consumption of Wine with Meals and Subjective Well-being: A Finnish Population-Based Study. Alcohol Alcohol.  2016 Nov;51(6):716-722.
2.       Boban M, Stockley C, Teissedre PL, Restani P, Fradera U, Stein-Hammer C, Ruf JC. Drinking pattern of wine and effects on human health: why should we drink moderately and with meals? Food Funct. 2016 Jul 13;7(7):2937-42.

3.       Di Renzo L, Carraro A, Valente R, Iacopino L, Colica C, De Lorenzo A. Intake of red wine in different meals modulates oxidized LDL level, oxidative and inflammatory gene expression in healthy people: a randomized crossover trial. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2014;2014:681318.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Why can some people drink only European wines? It’s probably not what you think.

Who doesn’t know someone who swears they can drink wines when they are in Europe but has a reaction to wine back home? Theories abound as to why this occurs, but none of them completely explains the problem. Suspect sulfites? Maybe, but that is almost certainly not the issue for most. Pesticides possibly? A tasting room server pressed that idea on me recently, claiming that American winemakers use more of them and they accumulate in our fat tissue over our lifetime, increasing our sensitivity to them. But evidence suggests otherwise, at least as far as pesticide use is concerned. Is it lower alcohol content? There is a persuasive case to be made for that, but as European winemakers chase higher scores, the alcohol content increases there too. Each of these premises may apply to some degree, but I have another idea to toss into the mix: I think that when we are in Europe, we drink differently. We are probably on vacation, and we are more relaxed. We are more likely to drink in a tradit…

How globalization of drinking habits threatens the French paradox

It seems that the more studies we see on the relationship between wine and health, and the larger they are, the more contradictory the results. Headlines summarizing comprehensive international studies declare the French paradox dead, and all alcoholic beverages are equally detrimental. I think there is an overlooked explanation for this: over the past several decades, convergence of drinking patterns around the world has separated wine from its role as a daily part of a meal. Globalization has commoditized our views about drink, toppling it from its role as a culturally specific emblem. Global convergence of drinking There are several recent reports summarizing the trend,[i],[ii],[iii]and it applies for both developed and developing countries. Since the early 1960s, wine’s share of global alcohol consumption has more than halved, declining from 35% to 15%. Beer and spirits have taken up the slack, with beer gaining 42% and spirits adding 43%, both large gains. The bigger story howeve…

Wear red and DRINK red for women’s heart health

This Friday Feb 2nd is the annual “wear red” day in Canada and the U.S. to raise awareness for women’s heart health. Why only a day for the number one threat to women’s health? Women are 5 times more likely to succumb to heart disease than breast cancer, which gets a whole month (October.) Another contradiction is that the advice women hear about prevention of breast cancer is the opposite of what you can do to lower the risk of heart disease: a daily glass of wine. Even one drink a day raises your risk of breast cancer, we are told, ignoring the overriding benefits of wine on heart health. Drink red wine to live longer Here’s why I think women should also “drink red.” For starters, wine helps de-stress and celebrates life. Stress is a factor in heart disease, and if that were the only way wine helped it would be worth considering. But the medical evidence is also strong: a daily glass of red wine helps raise the HDL “good cholesterol” levels, which lowers the risk of cardiovascular p…