A new study will provide comfort to white wine lovers and give them a good excuse to pour themselves a glass of Sauvignon blanc because it now appears that white wine is just as healthy for the heart as red.
Scientists in the U.S. compared the cardioprotective abilities of red wine, white wine, and their principal cardioprotective constituents and they say the benefits are similar to those of red wine.
It is generally believed that the French paradox, high fat intake but low rates of heart disease - is related to the consumption of red wine and not other varieties of wine, including white wine or champagne.
Reds have earned their acclaim because of the resveratrol present in the wine which comes from the grape skins - whites were never considered as healthy because the white wine process uses the pulp of grapes but not the skin.
Resveratrol, a type of polyphenol, is thought to protect against both heart disease and cancer.
The researchers from the Cardiovascular Research Center at the University of Connecticut in Farmington, conducted studies using rats who were given measured doses of either white wine, red wine, water or raw grain alcohol, with their meals, which equated in human terms to one or two glasses a day.
Others were fed "polyphenols", health-giving plant chemicals found in white as well as red wine and it was found that the rats given the white wine with their meals suffered less heart attack damage than animals allowed only water or raw grain alcohol.
The researchers say the benefits were similar to those seen in animals fed red wine, or resveratrol and even the rats who suffered induced heart attacks, those given red or white wine, or polyphenols, experienced less damage than those fed water or straight alcohol and their blood pressure and aortic blood flow dropped less dramatically.
Tests suggest that the white wine protected the mitochondria in heart cells - damage to these structures caused by lack of oxygen and nutrients can send cells down a path to suicide or apoptosis, which is irreversible.
The mitochondria from the wine-drinking rats appeared in better shape and fewer of their cardiac cells entered apoptosis and this was also the case for rats that were given polyphenols, including resveratrol from red wine, and tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol from whites.
Dr. Dipak Das, a molecular biologist says while the trio are not identical all three compounds are similar in structure and may activate similar biological reactions.
He says the flesh of the grape does the same job as the skin and that one to two glasses of white wine per day works exactly like red wine.
Dr. Das says while the evidence is still scant, an "English paradox" may yet emerge as beer is also cardioprotective.
Dr. Das says the results of the study suggest that white wine can provide cardioprotection similar to red wine if it is rich in tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol.
The research appears in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.