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Are the health benefits to drinking white wine the same as red?

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September 12, 2011 2:48PM

"No...just_red." id="No...just_red.">No...just red.

It's pretty well established that red wine (not white) is a

particularly rich source of antioxidants flavonoid phenolics; many

studies to uncover a cause for red wine's effects have focused on

its phenolic constituents, specifically resveratrol and the

flavonoids. Resveratrol, found in grape skins and seeds, increases

HDL (the good kind) cholesterol and help prevent blood clotting. A

study published by the Journal of Carcinogenesis reported

that lab rat fed Resveratrol developed prostate tumors at a much

lower rate than mice fed on a normal diet. Flavonoids, also found

in dark chocolate and other foods, exhibit antioxidant properties

helping prevent blood clots and plaques formation in arteries.

Red wine versus white wine - is there a difference in health


by Dr Philp Norrie MBBS, MSc, MSocSc(Hons) Ever since Serge

Reynaud's 'French Paradox' paper was published in The Lancet

in 1991 wine consumers have had the mind set that only red wine is

good for them. This article will show that it does not matter

whether the wine is white or red as long as it is consumed in

moderation and on a regular daily basis; then you will gain

significant health benefits.

It has been well documented that consuming alcohol in moderation

can reduce mortality from all causes by 30-50% (1) due, mainly, to

reducing our society's biggest killer, cardiovascular disease by up

to 50% (2) and cancer by up to 24% (3). It is also good for

relieving society's other big disease group - stress related

illness. Vascular disease occurs when bad cholesterol (LDL) is

deposited in artery walls and swells up, eventually rupturing,

causing a clot to form which blocks off the artery, and thus

denying the tissue supplied by that artery of blood, hence it


Alcohol, consumed in moderation reduces the bad cholesterol and

raises the good cholesterol (HDL) level, plus acts as an

anti-coagulant (blood clotting preventative). Good cholesterol

clears away bad cholesterol from atheromatous plaques in artery

walls and takes it back to the liver for re-metabolism.

Wine, in addition, contain substances called antioxidants which

inhibit bad cholesterol from being incorporated in the artery wall.

The antioxidants also reduce the damage caused by the body's free

radicals (toxic waste products) which help cause degenerative

diseases in the body such as cancer, Alzheimer's disease,

Parkinson's disease and aging.The benchmark antioxidants are

vitamins E and C, but wine in particular contains the strongest

antioxidants in nature called resveratrol, quercitin and

epicatechin which are five times stronger than vitamin E. Frankel

(5) has shown that no matter how much vitamin E you take, its

antioxidant activity plateaus at 20%, whereas wines' antioxidants

will plateau at 100% after a couple of glasses. It should also be

noted here that the fermentation process of converting grapes into

wine enhances the antioxidant level many times over, plus produces

alcohol, which helps the absorption of antioxidants. This explains

why wine is far superior for your health than taking concentrates

grape extract which has been advocated by some misguided


Returning to the 'French Paradox'. Reynaud observed that the

French, despite eating a vascular disease-predisposing cholesterol

rich diet, have significantly less coronary heart disease than

other similarly indulgent countries. The reason for this, according

to Reynaud is due largely to France's high consumption of wine.

Professor Reynaud advocates red wine especially, but in fact his

paper mentioned alcohol and wine, and did not specify red or white


Dr. Frankel's research has shown that red wine contains more

antioxidants than white wine, with the amount varying according to

the grape variety, region, vintage climate (summer rainfall

increases resveratrol production in grape skins as it protects

against fungal infection), soil, storage in oak (oaked wines have

more antioxidants than unoaked wines) and filtration techniques.

Professor Skurray from The University of Western Sydney (5)

has also shown that fining agents effect resveratrol levels.

Polycar removed 92% of resveratrol, casein, egg white and alginate

also 'stripped' some resveratrol, whereas gelatine removed

relatively little.

The relevance of this to the average wine drinker is illustrated

when one looks at studies which compare red wine and white wine

consumption and mortality in practice, rather than in the


There have been several studies which show that either are as

beneficial. In 1995, Vinson and Hontz from the Department of

Chemistry at the University of Scranton published a

paper titled 'Phenol Antioxidant Index:comparative antioxidant

effectiveness of red and white wines' (7) What this study showed

was that even though red wines had a higher phenol content than

white wines "The white wines had a significantly lower 1C50" (the

concentration for 50% inhibition of low density lipoprotein or bad

cholesterol) and thus were better antioxidants than contained in

red wines. The take home message here is that it does not matter

what the total antioxidant or phenol level is, but how effective

the antioxidants are at doing their job -in this case inhibiting

bad cholesterol.

Dr. Jung et al at the University of Mainz published a

research paper in 1999 entitled 'Moderate red and white wine

consumption and the risk of cardiovascular disease' (7). The

paper's summary stated 'white and red wine improved the antioxidant

capacity in the blood. The sum of the changes in cardiovascular

protective blood values, the 'protective wine score' which includes

all parameters, showed a clear improvement in both wine groups. The

scores for moderate wine consumption were higher than for water,

and white wine scored higher than red wine. Systolic blood pressure

reduced significantly in the white wine group and the distolic

blood pressure reduced in both wine groups'. This study shows that

the effects of both red and white wines are comparable and in some

parameters white wine delivered even better results than red


Across the Atlantic in the US, The Jordan Heart Research

Foundation found that free radicals were reduced by 15% in red

wine drinkers and 34% by white wine drinkers, while red wine

drinkers experienced a reduction in the blood's clotting ability of

10% and white wine drinkers 20%.

So why are the antioxidant molecules in white wine apparently

more effective than those found in red wines even though they are

present in greater numbers in red wines? The answer lies in the

research of Dr. Troup, a physicist at Monash University in

Melbourne. Dr. Troup used an electron spin resonance spectroscope

to examine the actual size of the various antioxidant molecules in

wine and showed that those in white wine are smaller and thus more

effective because they can be more easily absorbed. A biochemical

analogy would be to compare the smaller more effective immunoglobin

IgG molecule which gets to all the bodies tissues to provide

antibody coverage, whereas the larger immunoglobin IgM is

restricted to the vascular system for its area of operation. In a

letter to the Editor of the International Journal of Food

Science and Technology titled 'Free Radical scavenging

abilities of beverages' Troup et al pointed out that 'if the health

promoting properties of wines are related to their

superoxide-scavenging abilities, then white wine is at least as

effective as red'.

Thus it can be seen that it does not matter which colour wine

one drinks as each contain alcohol and enough antioxidants and once

you get up to 100% antioxidant activity in your body tissue,

anything extra is redundant anyway. Finally it should be emphasised

that antioxidants such as resveratrol are not exclusive to wine but

are found in dark ales, stout and cask aged whiskey too.

What does matter is that we are not side tracked from the

important issue that drinking moderately and responsibly lengthens

and enhances life, by which or what alcoholic beverage is better

for you. Remember that all alcohol offers protective effect from

coronary heart disease and total mortality.

References: (1) Gronbaek M 'Mortality associated with moderte

intake of wine, beer and spirits BMJ Vol310May1995. (2) Simons L

'Alcohol intake and survival in the elderly: Dubbo Study: Aust.NZ

Journal of Medicine. vol26 no5. (3) Reynaud S 'Alcohol and

Mortality in middle aged men'; Epidemiology 1998, Vol9 no2. (4)

Frankel E 'Red Wine Antioxidants and Potential health benefits'

Address to the Society of Medical Friends of Wine. (5) Skurray G

'Wine Making Practice and Resveratrol in wine 1998. (6) VinsonJ and

Hontz B Phenol Antioxidant index: Journal Agricultural Food

Chemistry 1995,3. (7) Jung et al Herz/Kreisl,31 (1/99)pge


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