Red wine is seen as the holy grail of alcohol in terms of health benefits. It gets a lot of attention for the antioxidants it contains and rightfully so. White wine is no slouch either, and even though it doesn't contain the same powerful antioxidants as red wine, it has some similar health benefits such as lowering your risk of heart disease.
A Generous Pour
Wine glasses come in all shapes and sizes, and a glass to you might be two glasses to someone else. Light to moderate drinking is associated with health benefits, according to an article from the American Heart Association, but drinking heavily can actually cause problems like high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation.
The Centers for Disease Control considers 5 ounces of wine to be one drink. Wine is 12 percent alcohol, and you need 14 grams of pure alcohol to constitute a drink according to an article from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Beer has a lower percentage, which is why you can drink more, and shots have a very high percentage, which is why you drink very little.
It might help to measure out 5 ounces in your favorite wine glass, so that you have an idea of how much you should pour for one drink. Then, you can stick to health guidelines that use 5 ounces of wine per drink.
The French Paradox
One of the most famous cases for the health benefits of wine is called the French paradox. In France, it's common to eat food that's high in saturated fat, which typically comes from animal products like meat or dairy. There's evidence that eating high amounts of saturated fat leads to heart disease, according to an article from the American Heart Association.
Strangely, the rate of heart disease isn't very high in France. Compared to other countries, wine consumption is higher, and some researchers claimed that the wine drunk in France could offset the high amount of saturated fat consumed.
Unfortunately, there were a few different factors that could easily explain the low rates of heart disease in France, and wine has been partially ruled out according to an article from The Conversation. If nothing else, the French paradox sparked interest in wine as a health supplement and led to much more research.
Red or White Wine?
The benefits of drinking one or two glasses of white wine per night aren't exactly straightforward. Red and white wine have their own set of antioxidants, so researchers have to test them independently. Wine contains alcohol, which means researchers have to test nonalcoholic wine to see if the alcohol itself is providing benefits or if it's the chemicals found in wine.
The Power of Polyphenols
Health Benefits of White Wine
Without these powerful polyphenols, white wine still manages to hold its own in terms of health benefits. A 2018 study published in Clinical Nutrition showed that aged white wine has more heart healthy benefits than gin. That shows white wine has beneficial chemicals other than the alcohol it contains.
The study showed that white wine helped repair endothelial cells. An article from ScienceDirect explains that endothelial cells line your blood vessels, which is why white wine has heart protective benefits.
A 2018 study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry took the polyphenols that white wine contains and fed them to mice. The researchers found that the mice had lower risk of developing problems that lead to Alzheimer's. This study is important because it looks at the antioxidants that are specific to white wine.
It seems that one phenol in particular is responsible for white wine's benefits. It's called caffeic acid. A 2015 study published in PLoS One isolated this particular compound and found that it the reduced risk of heart and kidney problems.
How Antioxidants Help
Phenols and other antioxidants can reduce inflammation that cause problems like heart disease. Free radicals, which are oxygen molecules that float around your body, can cause damage that leads to heart disease. An article from the Cleveland Clinic explains that antioxidants, which neutralize free radicals, can protect you from heart disease.
The article also mentions that antioxidant supplements didn't seem to help with heart disease but antioxidant-rich foods did. White wine falls in that category.
Switching to White Wine
Since red wine is more researched and has more benefits than white wine, it might make sense to just stick with red. However, some people get migraines or allergic reactions from red wine but can drink white wine without a problem. Some people simply dislike the taste of red wine and prefer white.
Not many studies compare the effects of white and red wine directly. However, more and more evidence is coming out about the benefits of white wine. An article from Circulation, the American Heart Association's scientific journal, speculates that white wine might not have the same polyphenol level as red wine, but it has its own chemicals that give you similar benefits.
Benefits of Alcohol
Alcohol, in general, has some health benefits that enhance the antioxidants already present in white wine. A 2018 study published in Current Cardiology Reports shows that the benefits of drinking wine in moderation include lowering your risk for coronary artery disease, heart failure and cardiovascular mortality.
The Drawbacks of Drinking
The researchers in the 2018 Current Cardiology Reports study also talk about the risks of alcohol consumption if you drink too much. While red and white wine have health benefits, alcoholic drinks have inherent risks. The biggest risk is that you develop a dependency to alcohol.
Drinking too much can lead to heart problems like arrhythmia and stoke, according to an article from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Liver problems, such as cirrhosis and fibrosis, can occur. Your pancreas may become inflamed and damaged. Your risk of certain types of cancers is also increased.
Weight Gain From Wine
Two glasses of wine will cost you 250 calories. If you have two glasses every night, that's an extra 1,750 calories per week. In spite of the health benefits of wine, the extra calories may be enough to turn you away. If you're trying to lose weight, you'd have to cut more food out of your diet to make room for a glass of white wine.
- National Geographic: Our 9,000-Year Love Affair With Booze
- Circulation: Wine and Cardiovascular Health
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Alcohol FAQ
- ScienceDirect: Polyphenol
- Clinical Nutrition: Consumption of Aged White Wine Modulates Cardiovascular Risk Factors Via Circulating Endothelial Progenitor Cells and Inflammatory Biomarkers
- ScienceDirect: Endothelial Progenitor Cell
- The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry: Beneficial Effects of White Wine Polyphenols-Enriched Diet on Alzheimer’s Disease-Like Pathology
- PLoS One: Caffeic Acid, A Phenol Found in White Wine, Modulates Endothelial Nitric Oxide Production and Protects From Oxidative Stress-Associated Endothelial Cell Injury
- Cleveland Clinic: Antioxidants, Vitamin E, Beta Carotene, & Cardiovascular Disease
- Current Cardiology Reports: Effect of Alcohol Consumption on Cardiovascular Health
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: Alcohol's Effects on the Body
- The Spruce Eats: Calories in a Glass of Wine
- Heart: Saturated Fat
- The Conversation: The ‘French Paradox’ Turned Out to be An Illusion, But It Led to Some Interesting Research
- NIAAA: What Is a Standard Drink?