Sunday, March 28, 2010

Good Food, Good Drink? Think Again

(ISNS) -- In the kitchens of some of the nation's finest restaurants, top chefs design menus that pair expensive entrees with fine wines, inexorably linking good food with good drink. But according to a new study released this week, the connection between food and alcohol may be much less wholesome outside the halls of haute cuisine.

A team of researchers from several federal agencies have discovered that people who consume alcohol tend to eat differently -- and not necessarily to their own benefit.

"We found that people who drank more had poorer diets than people who drank less," said nutritionist Rosalind Breslow, who conducted the study for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism along with researchers at the Department of Agriculture and the National Cancer Institute.

The study, to be published next month in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, looked at a massive, multiyear survey of nearly 16,000 U.S. adults who were asked detailed questions about their previous day's diet. The surveys were extensive enough for the researchers to be able to determine the nutritional value of the meals the people ate and relate this to their alcohol consumption.

For reasons that the researchers do not completely understand, men who drank more than other men ate fewer meals containing whole grains or fruit. The study also showed that women who drink any amount also consumed more calories overall, and it found that the more people drank, the more fats and sugars they included in their diets.

Standard basic guidelines on nutrition generally outline the importance of a balanced diet, including foods like whole grains and fruits, and they recommend that people should limit their intake of dietary sugars and fat.

Experts said the link between heavy drinking and poor dietary choices is significant because it may help scientists to better understand the connection between food, alcohol, and health.

"This finding raises questions about whether the combination of alcohol misuse and poor diet might interact to further increase health risks," said Kenneth R. Warren, acting director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, in a statement released on March 25.

Heavy drinking and poor diet are already both independently associated with heart disease, cancer, and chronic health problems. Understanding how drinking and diet in combination affect human health may allow federal agencies to modify nutritional guidelines accordingly.
By Jason Socrates Bardi
Inside Science News Service 
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