White wine enriched in polyphenols has the same protective effect against atherosclerosis as red wines.

White wine enriched in polyphenols has the same protective effect against atherosclerosis as red wines, French researchers report.

The relatively low mortality rate in France compared with the rest of Europe - the so-called French paradox - is attributed to the French love of red wine. The relatively high content of phenolic compounds with antioxidant properties combines with the beneficial effects of ethanol to reduce the risk of heart disease. This protective effect does not cross over to white wines because they have much lower amounts of phenolic compounds. Now, a polyphenol-enriched white wine has produced some interesting health benefits. 

A commercial Chardonnay called Paradoxe Blanc, which is enriched in tannins, inhibited the onset of atherosclerosis. Pierre-Louis Teissedre and colleagues from the Universities of Montpellier, France and Caxias do Sul, Brazil, fed either the enriched white wine, a sparking Pinot Noir red wine or 12 per cent ethanol to hamsters in which early atherosclerosis had been triggered.

Daily 500mL doses of the enriched white wine, equivalent to about 2 glasses of red wine per meal for humans, had the same beneficial effects as the red wine. Both wines significantly influenced factors that lead to the onset of early atherosclerosis, including reducing plasma cholesterol concentrations and limiting the development of aortic fatty streaks. 

The enriched white wine contained almost seven times as many total catechins as the red wine (186mg and 27mg, respectively) but, thanks to the anthocyanin content of red wine, the total phenolics content of both wines was about the same.

’It will be interesting to see if the consumption of a daily single dose of 27mg catechins gives the same protective effect against atherosclerosis as a dose of 200mg,’  Teissedre told Chemistry World. ’We can imagine that to obtain a significant activity against atherosclerosis in vivo, a significant quantity of catechins is necessary regularly and we have to do further research on that aspect.’ Steve Down