In 1991, British medical journal the Lancet published a paper that gave wine lovers everywhere a reason to rejoice. In searching for the cause of the so-called “French paradox” (referring to the fact that French people are thought to experience a far lower incidence of heart disease, even though their diet is rich in butter and fat), researchers theorized that a liquid lunch was what did the trick. Despite eating all the croissants their whittled waistlines desired, the French stayed healthy because their diet regularly included red wine.
People have extolled the benefits of red wine for centuries, but since the 1990s, it has been shown to be a “superfood” many times over, protecting the body from heart disease, stroke, cancer, and countless other chronic maladies. A diet that includes moderate amounts of red wine can reduce mortality from these afflictions by 30 to 50 percent, according to some studies. But one group of people isn’t so thrilled by the good news about red wine—people who prefer white wine and feel that their beverage of choice has been unfairly maligned.
It’s in the Skin
The reason red wine gets so much credit is that it’s full of a potent blend of some of the strongest antioxidant chemicals found in nature—even more potent than vitamins C and E, which are considered some of the most powerful. Besides polyphenols, flavonoids, phenolic acids, and other bioactive compounds, red wine contains resveratrol, a chemical that has shown remarkable promise in protecting the heart and brain from damage, reducing inflammation, and reversing harmful health conditions. These helpful compounds, found in the skins of grapes, appear more abundantly in red wine than in white, because red-wine grapes stay in contact with their skins for much longer in the winemaking process, while white-wine grapes are separated from their skins early on. So naturally, much of the published research shows that when it comes to preventing colon cancer, stroke, diabetes, and heart disease, red wine should be people’s beverage of choice.
White or Red … or Both?
Not all researchers believe in the power of cabernet over chardonnay, however. Some studies have found no discernible difference between the health benefits of drinking white wine versus red. Besides the chemicals that are unique to wine, alcohol itself can be a powerful and beneficial compound (in moderation, of course); it increases the absorption of other antioxidants, boosts the level of good (LDL) cholesterol, thins the blood to prevent heart clots, and promotes relaxation, which can help avert stress-induced illnesses. Since white and red wines contain similar levels of alcohol, in this respect, they have the same positive effects on the body.