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Have another beer, bro: Quality beer and wine qualify as health foods

A toast to tippling.
Photo by Duane Prokop/Getty Images for Moet & Chandon

While parents and administrators berate college students who prioritize their beer bashes rather than study Chaucer, some studies show that beer and wine in moderation have health benefits. Hoping to appeal to consumers who want to have their alcohol without feeling guilty about their diets, merchants such as Harvest Health Foods are adding what they classify as quality beer and wine to their shelves, reported Michigan Live on Aug. 19.

To qualify as quality, the wine must be organic, locally produced, estate or bio-dynamically farmed. As for the beer? It's all about the label.

"We make the best beer, so why not sell the best beer?" asked beer and wine buyer Joel Andrus. "On top of that we decided to sell some of the more high quality craft beers from around America and the world."

In a society where money means quality, the price tag on the wine bottle also can determine whether it's beneficial to the body. And just like real estate, location counts too. "There are so many new wines coming from around the world, Americans' choices have increased exponentially," said wine expert Mike DeSimone, in an Aug. 19 interview with ABC News.

If it's difficult to pronounce, it's more appealing to the palate, says Jeff Jenssen. In that category are "mavrud from Bulgaria and malvasia Istriana from Croatia. Also, we're seeing more nero d'avola and grillo from Sicily."

As for wine specifically for health, some physicians are writing wine diet prescriptions for patients. Well, sort of.

Veronica McLymont, director of food and nutrition services of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, told Forbes that "if a patient has a dying wish, or the doctor doesn’t see any potential adverse effect on a patient having a drink of wine or a beer, it’s been done."

And a French hospital is even opening a wine bar for its terminally ill patients. The Clermont-Ferrand University Hospital in central France plans to provide medically supervised tastings with family and friends, said Dr. Virginie Guastella.

"Why should we deprive people reaching the end of their lives of the traditional flavors of our land?" asked the physician. Options will include champagne.

But for those who want to focus on health, the real question is: How much can consumers consume while feeling virtuous about their diets? Dr. William Lagakos, author of "The poor, misunderstood calorie," cites a study showing that two to three drinks per day "significantly reduced the risk of total mortality."

As for whether you should add wine or beer to your diet? "A study on some 13,000 Danes suggested most of the benefits are reaped with wine," added Lagakos.

Other studies indicated that choosing wine over water provided "improved glycemic parameters, superior gut bacteria profile and reduced risk of mortality." Summed up Lagakos: "I've just updated my definition of 'moderation' to four."