Germans have long used red wine as a way to treat illness and protect against disease, but they are starting to consider using the drink to treat chronic conditions.
As part of a campaign to help curb rising rates of heart disease and diabetes in Germany, the country’s government has approved an effort to use the drink as a supplement for its seniors.
“Red wine is really the only drink that you can drink that is good for you,” said Dr. Jens Biedermann, head of the heart and circulatory diseases department at Berlin’s Albert Einstein Institute of Geriatrics.
“It has the benefits of a healthy diet and is high in vitamin C, iron, zinc, protein and other vitamins.”
The government has allowed the sale of 2,000 bottles of red wine annually for a year, with proceeds going to hospitals and charities.
The move to sell wine as an alternative to prescription drugs is a move that many say is the only way to stem the rising number of heart attacks and strokes in Germany.
The health authorities say they are taking a pragmatic approach.
The agency has proposed that doctors recommend a range of medicines for patients, based on a variety of factors including their risk for heart disease, their weight, their blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes.
In some cases, the drugs can be prescribed in addition to red wine.
The government said that in 2016, the rate of heart attack deaths in Germany rose by 1.5 percent, the first time the country has seen such a steep rise.
The country’s health care system is among the worst in Europe, where patients have to pay more for medicines than in other developed countries.
Many of the elderly in Germany pay more than €30,000 ($35,000) for prescriptions, according to figures from the Federal Statistical Office.
In the United States, some doctors say that is too high.
“The average cost of medication in the U.S. is $13,000 per year for an adult,” said Peter Schott, a professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
“We are seeing much higher costs in Germany.”
The new policy comes after several studies found that a combination of vitamin C and vitamin E is a powerful medicine.
The use of vitamin E, however, has been controversial in Germany because of concerns about the side effects of taking too much of it.
The German health authorities are hoping to lower those concerns by introducing a range on red wine, including fortified red wine and sparkling wine.
But for the most part, the plan is to continue using prescription drugs, said Biedman.
Doctors and pharmacists are still needed to make sure that the drinks are safe, he said.
The beverage’s benefits can include reducing blood pressure and cholesterol, lowering the risk of heart failure, reducing blood clots, reducing inflammation and easing the symptoms of diabetes.
The red wine initiative comes as Germany is facing an increased number of cases of heart problems, including the new trend of heart defects.
At least 20 percent of Germans have a heart defect, according a study by the Berlin University Hospital.
The new government plans to make the red wine a part of the countrys health strategy.
Health officials say the new guidelines will help the country fight the growing heart disease crisis.