Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Red wine vs white wine

Bottle of wine, fruit of the vine

It was Dr Serge Renaud who popularised the term “French Paradox” in 1992. The French eat more saturated fats than many other western nations, yet have a lower rate of heart disease. The attractive concept that wine could reverse the effects of a fatty diet has been the justification of many who enjoy a wine.

Red vs white
So begat to ongoing discussion of why wine may offer some health benefits. Was it the alcohol or the antioxidants? Could it even be that wine lovers were fitter and more likely to embrace moderation, or was it a quirk of statistics because French wine lovers were more likely to die of alcohol-related cancers or in car accidents, so it made sense that fewer got around to dying of heart disease?

Like all the big questions in health, the answer lies in a myriad of possibilities, and the distillation of the data usually suggests that some alcohol is better than none or lots. There is broad agreement that 1-2 standard drinks a day, no more, has life-enhancing prospects. (Note: I will always say that, even if the evidence changes).

An argument for white wine
Grape skin is included in the production of red wine, contributing to its resveratrol content and other antioxidants linked a reduction in heart disease. Even though white wine doesn’t have resveratrol (as no grape skin is included in the wine making), there may be other components in white wine that protects the heart. There is increasing evidence that tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol, both found in white wine (and in good olive oil), have an equally important role in protecting the heart.

A joint Italian and US study revealed what every white wine lover hoped. Researchers gave red and white wines to appreciative laboratory animals and found that both wines reduced the oxidative stress in the heart and lowered the inflammatory response. Here, I need to say that heart disease is an inflammatory disease causing atherosclerosis; it is not a build up of fat. Saturated fat, which raises LDL-cholesterol and cigarette smoke trigger the inflammatory response in the arteries, leading to artery narrowing and heart disease.

Both tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol seem to stop oxidation of LDL-cholesterol (the nasty cholesterol), stop platelet aggregation (nerdy term for blood clots that lodge in narrowed arteries), and reduce the inflammatory response leading to bad arteries. Anyway, the good news is that white wine seems to be protecting the heart in a similar fashion to red wine, using different compounds.


What does it all mean?
Enjoy the wine you enjoy. Red or white. Modest amounts. What may be of more critical importance to your health is the quality of the company you are with at the time of drinking.

Reference: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2008; 56: 9362-9373

6 comments:

Coz said...

Glenn
As per usual, another fantastic article. One question I was left asking is: What about the link between alcohol consumption and various cancers? Recently the media are kicking around that story almost weekly. Especially after the NHMRC's alcohol guidelines looked like changing. What are your thoughts on the subject?

DaleB said...

I am a regular blood donor - I know you are too as I saw you at the awards ceremony last September. Well done! A few years ago while doing the preliminaries for my regular donation the nurse commented on how good my iron level was. I replied that it must have something to with the red wine I drink. She agreed that one or two glasses each night is very good for your heart and keeping your iron level up. However, when I raised the subject again at my next donation she appeared horrified that I could possibly think that red wine has any beneficial effects and denied ever having had the previous discussion with me. She said it was Red Cross policy to deter people from consuming alcohol. Nevertheless, I am on your side and enjoy my one or two galsses at least every other night.

Glenn Cardwell said...

Thanks to Coz and Dale for your comments. Like all consumables, alcohol can be abused. Excess will cause cancer (eg stomach, bowel, ovarian), especially if coupled with cigarette smoke. Alcohol is not recommended early in pregnancy. My non-expert understanding is 1) alcohol guidelines are always very conservative, and 2) 1-2 drinks a day, within healthy living, probably doesn't increase the risk of cancer.

Red wine probably doesn't help with iron levels as it doesn't have iron and doesn't enhance iron absorption from other foods. The Red Cross is unlikely to encourage alcohol consumption as the medical view is that saying good things about alcohol could lead to alcohol abuse. True, in rare occasions, and never in intelligent folk. Using the same logic, we should be careful encouraging people to exercise as it could lead to overuse injuries, I mean, I fell off my pushbike last year and near crippled myself and it wasn't long before people were telling me how dangerous exercise was :-)

Thanks again for your thoughts. Glenn

Piper said...

Choosing whether red wine or white wine depends on a person's personal preference. But aside from that, red wine contains the all-natural resveratrol which helps regulate our heart and prevent cancer cells from developing, which leads to longevity that all of us aspired of.

But there is an alternative on drinking a lot of red wine for good health, you can buy resveratrol capsules that contains a high concentration of resveratrol.

Mad.R said...

I am also a regular blood donor but not in your area. I live in Suriname and as the case is, after each donation you get offered a drink. Choices include juice, milk, and... wine. Usually I choose milk or juice. But as I decided to explore the benefits of wine on donation, I came across your article. Thanks for sharing the knowledge :)

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