Here was the best part:
It might seem unlikely, but beer (just like any wine, spirits, or other alcohol), when consumed in moderate amounts, has health benefits.I hope the anti-alcohol disinformation has not been so effective that this actually still seems unlikely to most readers, but at least the message was accurate, which it usually is not. For some reason, a myth persists that red wine. alone among alcoholic beverages, reduces heart attack risk and has other benefits, but there is no benefit from other drinks. The evidence that all sources of alcohol have similar effects been clear for decades. There was originally a hypothesis, ages ago, that the French Paradox (the fact that the French have better cardiovascular health than would have been predicted from naive models from many decades ago that over-emphasized the badness of dietary fats) might be explained by a benefit from red wine. Red wine indeed turned out to be beneficial, but no more so then the more plebeian brown liquids that most of us prefer.
I said "for some reason", but I suppose the persistence of the myth is neither a mystery nor an accident. Similar to the myth that all tobacco/nicotine use causes large health risks, the myth about red wine is used by moralizing activists, who pretend to be motivated by their health "sciencey" claims but are really using the language of science to support their purification campaigns without admitting their political motives. In this case, studies of isoflavones and such, and biased reviews of the data that cherry-pick any statistics that favor wine over beer, are used to try to convince people that the benefits are from a few stray molecules left over from the grape skin, rather than the ethanol. Since relatively few of the unwashed masses that these activists are trying to manipulate have red wine as their drink of choice, the activists can continue to pretend that almost all drinking is bad.
I really do think there is a class issue at work here...
So do I, which is why I bring it to your attention. Whenever temperance types such as Ian Gilmore make an effort to stress that they are not calling for teetotalism, they invariably mention the agreeable glass of wine with dinner. If they are feeling particularly brave/honest, they might even mention that the agreeable glass of wine is good for the ticker. They tend not to endorse a glass of vodka after work, or a bottle of Old Thumper before bed-time, although both would be equally healthful.
It seems reasonable to attribute this prejudice to the middle class's dominance in public health and the media (and in pretty much everything else). Of course, it could be argued that although the cardiovascular benefits are the same (because they come from the alcohol itself), it is better to drink wine from a public order perspective. In an essay that is sadly absent from the internet, Frank Zappa once wrote that "wino's don't march" ie. they tend to be less prone Neanderthal behaviour at closing time. Likewise, anecdotal evidence tells me that people drunk on whisky behave somewhat differently than those drunk on gin.
Or perhaps not. For all I know there are a huge number of studies showing that the type of drink makes no difference and it's all a case of reverse causation (ie. overly emotional and occasionally violent people happen to prefer drinking whisky). Whatever the case, wine has long been the drink of respectable society and it is also a staple of the much-glorified Mediterranean lifestyle. This, as Carl says, led to the exaggerated health benefits of wine at the expense of beer. This is changing, in the USA at least, because beer is becoming more popular:
When I came of age, there were only 60 breweries operating in all of America, and 99.9% of what they produced was little more than cheap slightly-alcoholic bubbly water. Most anyone reading about the benefits of alcohol for a decade and a half after that saw nothing but the red wine myth, and those of us who knew enough to know the science and that there was such a thing as good beer did our own brewing (I was pretty good at it) and research (I published one paper about this ages ago). Eric Rimm has been communicating the same message contained in the WebMD story for at least 20 years. But now, with more than 1000 craft breweries and dozens of fairly large high-quality operations in the U.S., people who would have been wine snobs a generation ago now drink fancy beer, so the health news is no longer entirely anti-beer.
Whilst I'm in the mood for a little speculation, I have occasionally wondered if the same was true for coffee. Coffee is hardly a taboo drink, but it was a target of prohibitionists way back when and there was a lingering suspicion of it for many years (it does, after all, contain a supposedly addictive drug). For many decades coffee would be regularly 'linked' to various cancers. But over the last ten years or so, studies have been more likely to say coffee is good for you (eg. reduces prostate cancer risk, good for the brain, reverses Alzheimer's). It may well be coincidence, but this turnaround seems to have occurred at a time when coffee houses run by big chains have popped up on every street-corner, and hanging around in Starbuck's has become de riguer. See also bottled water, which I have ranted about before.
Or not. Let me know in the comments. For full disclosure, I drink a lot of coffee and a lot of red wine. I've never been in a Starbuck's and I generally avoid bottled water.