Believing in Santa Claus may not be a scientifically tenable position, but it does come with benefits. As children reach the age where suspicions arise as to the veracity of the notion of a jolly visitor bearing gifts in the night, they come to understand that it is in their best interest to play along. In the case of wine, the science may be on more solid footing as to the benefits of moderate consumption, but what people believe does not always align with the facts here either. That is why it is encouraging to see recent survey data that people are finally acknowledging the connection between wine and health, even if there are still some areas of uncertainty.
London-based Mintel research recently released the results of a survey finding that some 85% of drinkers believe that wine in moderation is good for overall health, while wine drinkers hold that red wine is good for the heart. On the other hand, half of those attribute the same benefits to white wine. Given white wine’s relative lack of the polyphenol antioxidants that red wine has (extracted from the skins and seeds during fermentation of the whole grape), white is probably given more credit than it deserves here, but it is a least a step in the direction of healthy drinking. Some confusion is to be allowed here though since the degree to which red is better depends a lot on what health parameters are being studied, not to mention effects of beer or spirits consumption.
What the report didn’t evaluate is the level of penetration of knowledge about wine’s other benefits. One of the more difficult jobs that wine and health educators have is overcoming the assumption that heart health is the whole story. Sure, it’s the French paradox, I get it, people say. But that is only the beginning of a story whose conclusion is nowhere in sight. For example, every major epidemiologic survey on factors associated with Alzheimer’s disease has found the lowest incidence in wine drinkers, but we rarely hear anything about that. The other misconception out there is that it’s all about the polyphenols, so we just need to take a pill and skip the alcohol. Supplement marketers regularly claim that their brand has “all the benefits of wine” which is a misnomer because alcohol in the right amounts is also healthy (improves the high-density to low-density cholesterol ratio, among other good things.)
Another thing the Mintel report found was that people plan to drink more wine this holiday season, and that overall wine consumption is trending upward over the long-term. As for me, I believe that is a good thing. Cheers to all and best wishes for a good bottle from Santa.