If there’s a wine bottle in your grocery cart, you’re probably buying healthier foods than your fellow shoppers who are buying beer.

So say researchers who peeked at the purchases of Danish grocery shoppers. Their findings:

--People who bought wine bought more olives, fruit, vegetables, poultry, cooking oil, and low-fat cheese, milk, and meat.

--Beer buyers bought more prepared dishes, sugar, cold cuts, chips, pork, butter or margarine, sausages, lamb, and soft drinks.

“Wine buyers made more purchases of healthy food items than people who buy beer,” states the study in BMJ Online First.

Shoppers’ Habits Studied

Morten Gronbaek, MD, PhD, DrMedSci, was one of the researchers. He’s a professor at the Centre for Alcohol Research, which is part of Denmark’s National Institute of Public Health.

Gronbaek and colleagues didn’t hover over shoppers’ shoulders or lurk outside grocery stores to peek into shopping carts. Instead, they got data from two large Danish chains of grocery stores on about 3.5 million purchases made over six months.

People don’t always accurately report what they eat and drink, so the researchers write that shoppers’ purchases might be a better clue about their food and alcohol habits.

Wine Drinkers vs. Beer Drinkers

Wine drinkers and beer drinkers have been compared before. Here’s how they stacked up in a handful of French, Danish, and U.S. studies cited by Gronbaek’s team:

--Wine drinkers: Higher income, higher education level, healthier, leaner, and more likely to be young or middle-aged women who drink moderately.

--Beer drinkers: Less educated and more likely to be healthy young men who drink more alcohol.

Of course, those are broad findings, not facts that describe everyone.

Gronbaek and colleagues didn’t have the shoppers’ names. They don’t know who ate and drank the purchased goods, or if the shoppers also bought food or drinks at other stores.

By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

SOURCES: Johansen, D. BMJ Online First, Jan. 20, 2006. News release, BMJ.