The Fix; By Kelly Burch 08/12/19
With Americans becoming more health-conscious, alcohol manufacturers are increasingly making claims about the health benefits of their products, but experts warn that alcohol remains downright unhealthy.
Tobacco and alcohol addiction specialist Lisa Fucito, associate professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, said that marketing focused on health benefits can be a distraction technique.
“I think in general, when [brands] have these health claims on these products, it takes away from the important fact that you’re still ingesting alcohol,” she told NPR. “No matter how many other healthy things you try to put in something, you can’t undo the fact that there’s alcohol in there. And alcohol, at the end of the day, is the most dangerous part of what people will be exposed to.”
700 Bottles A Day
Researcher Chris Gerling, who works at Cornell University’s Department of Food Science, said that claims from red wine’s supposed heart benefits to increase antioxidant content are often misguided. For example, to get the heart benefit from red wine, you would need to drink about 700 bottles a day, he said, which would have obvious negative health consequences.
“People who have really good data would usually trumpet that from the hills,” he said. “People who have that information and can make a chart would show you a chart.”
More often, consumers get vague health claims, rather than quantifiable science. In some ways, this is in hopes of attracting more customers and setting their products apart, Fucito said.
“I think that when you make these other health claims, you’re potentially trying to attract people to use your product, and encourage them that the use is somehow safer,” she said. “What that can end up doing is helping people justify that they can drink more of something.”
Still, some alcohol manufacturers insist they are trying to do right by customers. Wine isn’t required to have a nutritional label, but Atlas Wine Co. recently started putting one on Oro Bello Light, a new product that has fewer calories and a lower alcohol content. The company found that providing an abundance of information made their product more appealing to consumers who want to know exactly what they are ingesting.
“We send the wine to the FDA-approved lab, exactly like you do for food,” said Atlas Wine’s managing partner Alexandre Remy, who also opted to include a label with ingredients. “I found that my marketing strategy against the big guys was to disclose as much information as possible.”