Wine is traditionally consumed at mealtimes and for centuries has occupied a prominent place on the dinner table in many cultures around the world, especially in the Mediterranean. When drinking with a meal, people in the United States are also more likely to select wine than any other type of alcohol beverage. Within the last few years, researchers have started to discover that this pairing of wine with food may offer significant health benefits. At this stage, studies are limited, but the "French Paradox" and the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid suggest that wine consumed concurrent with a meal may promote favorable biochemical interactions reducing the risk of certain chronic diseases. In addition to the effects of the ethyl alcohol, research suggests that the antioxidants present in wine, fruits and vegetables favorably influence lipid profiles following a meal.
Dietary concepts such as the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid and the Asian Diet Pyramid include the integration of wine as part of healthful diets, and several studies have shown that moderate consumption of wine does not contribute excess calories or cause weight gain.
The strong emphasis placed on the consumption of wine in connection with meals has also been a way to limit abuse of alcohol in other cultures. In Italy, researcher Amedeo Cottino explains, "This is precisely what is meant by the very common saying, 'Never drink wine between meals.' This ensures that alcoholic beverages never fill an empty stomach, and it also controls the amount of drinking by relating it to eating times."
Even public health policy advice, such as in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, often pairs alcohol consumption with meals. The Guidelines state, "Alcoholic beverages have been used to enhance the enjoyment of meals by many societies throughout human history," and advise, "If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation, with meals, and when consumption does not put you or others at risk."
Copyright © 1997 Wine Institute