Healthy or intelligent?
Danish scientists view wine's benefits
There's little doubt about the reality of the so-called "French Paradox," one popular term for the seeming contradiction first noted in France, where many people enjoy a rich and fatty cuisine but, accompanying it with wine, seem to avoid the cardiovascular problems that afflict their more abstemious neighbors.
But what is it about wine that benefits heart health? Some scientists give the credit to "antioxidants," a family of compounds with names like resveratrol, quercetin and epicatechin, found in grape skins among other fruits. Others suggest that ethyl alcohol itself carries the beneficial effects. And many simply acknowledge that they just don't know.
Most wine-and-health research is based on "longitudinal studies," in which scientists review medical records of groups of people over many years, hoping to find statistical connections between their lifestyle and their health. But there are so many variables that it's not possible to demonstrate a simple cause-and-effect relationship between drinking wine and enjoying a healthy heart.
Now a Danish study, published in the American Medical Association's Archives of Internal Medicine, suggests that the relationship between wine drinking and good health may not be direct at all.
Scientists studied in detail the lives and lifestyles of nearly 700 Danish men and women who were between the ages of 29 and 34 years during the period 1990 to 1994, and found a surprising statistical trend: Wine drinkers in this group on average had higher intelligence, more education and enjoyed higher socio-economic status than their non-wine-drinking contemporaries. The study brought bad news for beer drinkers, who as a group showed significantly lower scores on the same variables. "On scales concerning personality, psychiatric symptoms, and health-related behaviors, wine drinking was associated with optimal functioning and beer drinking with suboptimal functioning," the study concluded.
In short, the study found little evidence that wine was the cause of better health, but suggested that educated, intelligent and affluent individuals tended to make good health choices in their lifes and enjoyed wine.
From a wine lovers' standpoint, that's not bad news. But it also reinforces an assumption that most intelligent wine enthusiasts have already figured out: Wine isn't medicine, and shouldn't be viewed as such. It's simply one of many enjoyable ingredients in a happy, healthy lifestyle.
I'll drink to that!
You'll find the Danish study online at the Archives of Internal Medicine Website. The executive summary is at http://archinte.ama-assn.org/issues/current/abs/ioi00676.html. At the bottom of the summary, there's a link to the complete text.
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Affordable French red
"Vin de Pays" or "wine of the country" signals a wine that "connoisseurs" might consider a notch below the more established French appellations. But following this outdated stereotype would deprive the wine lover of some of the world's most interesting, and affordable, wines. This Vin de Pays comes from the Coteaux des Fenouilledes, a relatively little-known wine district in Southwestern France, where the Pyrennees tumble down to the Mediterranean near France's border with Spain. Clear ruby in color, it shows peppery red-fruit aromas and tart, juicy fruit flavors with simple but refreshing sour-cherry and herbal notes and fresh-fruit acidity to give it structure. An interesting wine, it's good with food and more complex than you'd expect for the price. U.S. importer: International Gourmet Corp., Tucker, Ga. (Aug. 12, 2001)
FOOD MATCH: A small T-bone steak served on a bed of freshly sliced tomatoes and basil with a few green olives makes a perfect foil for this tart, herbal red.
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Vol. 3, No. 30, Aug. 13, 2001