Studies have shown that drinking wine is associated with lower mortality than drinking beer or spirits. Some studies have also suggested that wine drinkers have healthier diets than beer or spirits drinkers, and this may explain wine's beneficial effect on health.
To study this theory, researchers in Denmark investigated the link between the purchase of beer and wine and various food items from supermarkets.
They analysed 3.5 million transactions chosen at random from 98 outlets of two large Danish supermarket chains over a six month period (September 2002 to February 2003).
Customers were categorised as "wine only," "beer only," "mixed," or "non-alcohol" buyers. Details of items bought, the number and price of the items, and the total charge for each customer's transaction were recorded.
They found that wine buyers bought more olives, fruit and vegetables, poultry, cooking oil, and low fat cheese, milk, and meat than beer buyers. Beer buyers bought more ready cooked dishes, sugar, cold cuts, chips, pork, butter or margarine, sausages, lamb, and soft drinks than wine buyers.
These results indicate that people who buy (and presumably drink) wine purchase a greater number of healthy food items than those who buy beer, say the authors. They also support findings from the United States, Denmark, and France showing that wine drinkers tend to eat fruit, vegetables, and fish and use cooking oil more often and saturated fat less often than those who prefer other alcoholic drinks.
The health benefits of drinking wine may be due to specific substances in wine or to different characteristics of people who drink other types of alcohol, they add. Thus, it is crucial that studies on the relation between alcohol intake and mortality adjust for other lifestyle factors such as drinking patterns, smoking, physical activity, education, or income.