Does drinking wine every day protect you from heart disease? And if it does, which works best, red or white wine? The results may surprise you.
A recent long-term European study found that consuming mild to moderate amounts of wine each day does, in fact, protect against heart disease. And the type of wine doesn't matter. The study says red and white are equally effective — but only if you do something else in addition to consuming the wine.
Past studies have shown that wine consumption raises levels of HDL cholesterol. HDL is considered the "good" cholesterol, as higher levels of HDL are associated with lower levels of cardiovascular disease. But there hadn't been a large, long-term, randomized study on the effects of red and white wine on HDL until now.
For this study, researchers looked at 146 participants who had mild-to-moderate risk of cardiovascular disease. The researchers asked the subjects to moderately consume either Pinot Noir (red wine) or Chardonnay-Pinot (white wine) from the same production year and wine region for a year. Moderate consumption was defined as 0.2 L for women and 0.3 L for men, no more than five times a week. The participants ate their usual diets and also kept track of their medications and amount and type of exercise. To confirm they had actually drunk the wine rather than sold it, the participants were required to return the bottles' corks to the researchers.
After a year, the researchers measured the participants' HDL cholesterol levels. Surprisingly, they didn't find any change from the beginning of the study for either the red or the white drinkers — except in one subgroup. According to Professor Taborsky, who presented the study, "The only positive and continuous result was in the subgroup of patients who took more exercise, which means regular exercise at least twice a week, plus the wine consumption. In this group HDL cholesterol increased and total cholesterol decreased in the red and white wine groups. There may be some synergy between the low dose of ethyl alcohol in wine and exercise which is protective against cardiovascular disease."
So if you enjoy wine, have a glass. If you like the taste of white wine better than red, it's fine to stick with your preference. But make sure you're getting plenty of exercise too so that you can benefit from its synergistic effects. One word of warning: just don't consume the wine while you're exercising!
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Dr. Janet Zand
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European Society of Cardiology. "Wine only protects against CVD in people who exercise." ScienceDaily, 31 August 2014.