Does Perceived Healthiness of Wine Increase Frequency of Consumption?

As a result of the obesity epidemic, people are starting to take notice and be more aware of the healthiness of the foods they consume on a daily basis.¬† Studies have found that foods that consumers perceive as healthy will be consumed in much greater amounts than foods that are perceived to be unhealthy.¬† With all of the research done on the positive health benefits of red wine (click on the key word ‚Äúhealth‚ÄĚ to find related posts), and on the other side, with all of the anti-overdrinking educational campaigns, do consumers see wine as healthy, or not?¬† If consumers do see red wine as healthy, would this increase consumption to the point of alcoholism?¬† The article reviewed today aims to answer these very questions.

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This modern wave of perceiving wine as potentially healthy started back in 1992 when the ‚ÄúFrench Paradox‚ÄĚ was first revealed.¬† A term coined by the authors Renaud and de Lorgeril, the ‚ÄúFrench Paradox‚ÄĚ describes the phenomena of a low mortality rate from ischemic heart disease among French people, despite their consumption of high levels of saturated fats and prevalence of smoking.¬† This was determined to be a result of the ‚ÄúMediterranean diet‚ÄĚ, which included a large intake of red wine, which is rich is polyphenols and antioxidants.¬† Studies have also shown that these health benefits of wine and not present in other alcoholic beverages, thus adding to the perceived notion that wine is healthy.¬†

Even though there are scores of studies showing how wine (both red and white) provides important health benefits when consumed in moderate amounts, other studies have shown a more negative light on the beverage.  When consumed in larger amounts, studies have found negative health implications of drinking wine, which are often times opposite of the result found with light to moderate wine consumption.  Also, some studies have found that there are increased cancer risks, even with moderate alcohol consumption.

These conflicting messages of the potential benefits or harmful effects of alcohol and wine consumption led the authors of the current study to determine whether or not consumers perceive wine to be healthy, and to determine if this perceived healthiness had an effect on the amount of wine consumed by the individual.  Further, if this perceived healthiness does change consumption patterns, does an increase in perceived healthiness result in an increase incidence of alcoholism?

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Methods

A national phone survey in Australia was completed for 1,050 individual participants.¬† The only requirements to be a participant in the study were that the individual had to be at least 18 years old (the legal drinking age in Australia) and that they consumed wine.¬† The questions asked of the participants were related to demographics, amount of wine regularly consumed, frequency of wine consumption, style preferences, price willing to pay per bottle, and a 4 item CAGE questionnaire (developed for testing alcoholism).¬† The final question asked was whether or not participants agreed with the statement that wine was healthy, with possible answer choices being ‚Äústrongly disagree‚ÄĚ, ‚Äúdisagree‚ÄĚ, ‚Äúundecided‚ÄĚ, ‚Äúagree‚ÄĚ, and ‚Äústrongly agree‚ÄĚ.

Results

Demographics]

  • ¬† ¬† ¬† Out of 1,050 participants, 40.3% were male, and 59.7% were female.
  • ¬† ¬† ¬†¬†¬†The mean age of participants was 50.9 years, with a range of 18 to 90 years.
  • ¬† ¬† ¬†¬†¬†There was a very diverse range of wine drinking experience.

Perceived Healthiness of Wine

  • ¬† ¬† ¬† Demographics (age, sex, etc) alone do not explain perceived healthiness of wine.

 

o   Even though there were no significant demographic differences in the perceived healthiness of wine, the study did find a trend that older men tended to find wine healthier than other participants.  This could be due to the known health benefits of red wine with decreased coronary disease, which often strikes older men.

  • ¬† ¬† ¬†¬†¬†About ¬ľ of the participants thought of wine as healthy, while 47% of participants disagreed to some degree.
  • ¬† ¬† ¬† Different levels of perceived healthiness were associated with varying levels of consumption frequency.

o   The frequency of wine consumed was significantly less for those that strongly disagreed with the statement that wine is healthy than those that agree or strongly agree.

  • ¬† ¬† ¬† Even though frequency of wine consumption with those that agreed wine is healthy was significantly higher than those that did not agree, perceived healthiness of wine is NOT a predictor of alcoholism, based on the results of the CAGE questionnaire.
  • ¬† ¬† ¬† The correlation between perceived healthiness of RED wine and average price willing to pay per bottle was positive (increased perceived healthiness = willing to pay more for the wine).
  • ¬† ¬† ¬† The correlation between perceived healthiness of WHITE wine and average price willing to pay per bottle was negative (increased perceived healthiness = willing to pay less for the wine).
  • ¬† ¬† ¬† The correlation between red wine preference and perceived healthiness was positive (increased perceived healthiness = more likely to drink red wine).
  • ¬† ¬† ¬† The correlation between white wine preference and perceived healthiness was negative (increased perceived healthiness = less likely to drink white wine).

o   The difference between the two types of wine may be due to the fact that all the health benefits in the media are almost primary regarding red wine.

Conclusions

I find it fascinating that the consumption frequency of white wine actually decreases with increased perceived healthiness.  This makes sense, however, considering that almost all of the studies to date have been focused on the health benefits of resveratrol and other phenolic compounds that are present in red wine only.  What is less known, however, is that white wine also has many health benefits, as white wine is rich in antioxidants, which are beneficial for many reasons.  

The results of this study show that the perceived healthiness of wine does not lead to increased incidence of alcoholism in wine drinkers.  This result is very positive; however, since the study is only taking into consideration individuals who are already wine drinkers, it may not be completely representative of the adult population as a whole.  This study should be conducted again, this time with a wider range of participants that include those that drink alcoholic beverages other than wine.

Finally, the overconsumption patterns of other foods that have been shown to be healthy does not seem to hold true for wine, the reasons by which need to be further studied for a greater understanding of the mechanisms involved.

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If you have any comments/questions about this post, please feel free to comment below!  I’d love to hear from you!

Full citation of the article reviewed today:

Saliba, A.J., and Moran, C.C. 2010. The influence of perceived healthiness on wine consumption patterns. Food Quality and Preference 21: 692-696.
I am not a health professional, nor do I pretend to be. Please consult your doctor before altering your alcohol consumption habits. Do not consume alcohol if you are under the age of 21. Do not drink and drive. Enjoy responsibly!