SOCIAL status, wealth may explain apparent health benefits of drinking wine

Monday, August 13th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) _ While studies suggest wine drinkers might be healthier, it may have nothing to do with knowing the difference between a full-bodied cabernet and a bold little merlot.

A new study of young Danish adults found that wine drinkers generally are smarter, richer and more educated _ all factors that can be associated with better health _ than those who don't drink wine.

``People who have high IQs, who come from high socio-economic status, who have high education are generally healthier than people who are not,'' said June Reinisch, director emeritus of The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction at Indiana University and one of the study's authors.

The study published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine included 363 men and 330 women between the ages of 29 and 34. It compared wine drinkers and beer drinkers, those who abstain and those who drink both. Research was done between 1990 and 1994.

The people who were studied were chosen from among a group of all the children born at a major Copenhagen hospital between 1959 and 1961 who researchers have studied over the years.

Other Danish studies that showed health benefits from drinking wine were based on data collected when few in the traditionally beer-drinking country regularly drank wine. This study wanted to see if other social factors might help explain the apparent health benefits.

Dr. Tedd Goldfinger, a cardiologist in Tucson, Ariz., who has studied alcohol consumption and heart health, said the benefits of drinking wine should not be discounted.

``Clearly there's benefit from wine consumption,'' said Goldfinger, who was not involved in the Danish study.

Goldfinger said alcohol can decrease the tendency of blood to clot and cause heart attacks, and raise good cholesterol levels.

The benefits of drinking a glass of red wine have been touted over the past decade after the discovery of the ``French paradox'' _ that the French had low rates of heart disease despite high-cholesterol diets. Studies have shown the key may be the glass or two of red table wine at dinner.

But some scientists, including the American Heart Association's Nutrition Committee, have cautioned that drinking wine is not the most proven way to improve heart health. They suggest the time-honored practices of eating healthfully, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight.

Affluent people would be expected to have fewer health problems because they have better access to health care and generally lead healthier lifestyles by going to the doctor regularly and eating more nutritious foods, Goldfinger said.

But that doesn't mean there are no health benefits to moderate wine consumption, and you don't need to be rich to enjoy them, he said.

``You don't have to go out and spend $20 or $30 on a bottle of wine,'' Goldfinger said. He said a cheaper one will do.