Alcoholic beverage preference, diet, and health habits in the UNC Alumni Heart Study

Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 Aug;76(2):466-72. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/76.2.466.


Background: Moderate alcohol intake is related to better health, and additional benefits may be associated with wine. However, beverage preference may be confounded by lifestyle factors related to health.

Objective: The goal was to describe the associations between alcoholic-beverage preferences and indicators of a healthy diet and other health habits.

Design: This cross-sectional study included data from 2864 men and 1571 women enrolled in the UNC Alumni Heart Study. Self-reports of drinking habits were used as predictors of health behaviors and of intakes of nutrients and food groups.

Results: Subjects who preferred wine had healthier diets than did those who preferred beer or spirits or had no preference. Wine drinkers reported eating more servings of fruit and vegetables and fewer servings of red or fried meats. The diets of wine drinkers contained less cholesterol, saturated fat, and alcohol and more fiber. Wine drinkers were less likely to smoke. Compared with all drinkers, those who drank no alcohol consumed fewer vegetables but more fiber. Nondrinkers were less likely to exercise regularly and had a higher mean body mass index. Controlling for income and education had little effect on these associations.

Conclusions: The apparent health benefits of wine compared with other alcoholic beverages, as described by others, may be a result of confounding by dietary habits and other lifestyle factors. Confounding by lifestyle variables could also be a factor in the previously observed health differences between drinkers and nondrinkers, although the evidence for this association is not as strong.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Beer / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet*
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Food Preferences
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Male
  • North Carolina
  • Social Class
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Wine / statistics & numerical data*