One of the most satisfying and simplest pleasures in life is enjoying a great glass of wine in the evening. And we’ve been told that having a glass of red wine with meals is one of the best things for heart, health and longevity. It’s touted as one of the magic ingredients in the Mediterranean diet. Or is it? Researchers are now re-exploring the role of wine in heart health—and whether red wine is all that it is cracked up to be. You may have more options.
IN WINE, THERE IS TRUTH
A recent Czech study, dubbed the In Vino Veritas (“in wine, there is truth”) study, sought to discover the truth about the role of red wine and cardiovascular health. The study is the first long-term trial to compare the effects of red and white wine on HDL (“good”) cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.
The researchers had 146 men and women who were at risk for heart disease drink red or white wine for one year. The wines were grown on the same vineyard and were from the same vintage, and their components were compared, with the red wine (a pinot noir) containing much higher flavonol and polyphenol content and antioxidant potential than the white wine (a chardonnay-pinot). How much wine the participants were to drink was decided by the World Health Organization’s definition of moderate alcohol consumption—seven ounces per day for women and 10 ounces for men up to five times per week. The study participants were not asked to make any changes to their usual diets. (Czech food is traditionally very much unlike the Mediterranean diet, by the way…heavy on meat, potatoes, dumplings, rich sauces and sweets.) However, the dietary and exercise habits, weight, cholesterol and blood sugar levels and liver enzymes of the participants were monitored, as was how well they kept to their wine-drinking regimens.
The results: The researchers found that subjects’ LDL cholesterol levels were lower at the end of the study compared to their base levels at the beginning—whether they drank red or white wine. Great! It’s what everyone’s doctor likes to see. However, although red wine has long been thought to increase HDL cholesterol levels, no significant change was seen, on average, in this study. No change was seen in triglyceride (blood fat), blood sugar levels or liver enzymes either after one year of daily wine drinking.
Bottom line on this study: Wine may not impact your good-cholesterol levels—but it can improve bad-cholesterol levels. And there’s no need for you to merely tolerate a glass of red “for health reasons” if you really prefer white. A toast to your health!