The health benefits of red wine are well documented. It is generally seen as the type of wine that provides the most health benefits, and with good reason. Grape skins and seeds are included in the production of red wine, but removed in the production of white wine, which reduces its health credentials somewhat, but not entirely. A series of studies have reported encouraging findings for white wine enthusiasts.
White wine health benefits
Another study carried out in Israel reported similar findings, albeit with a different methodology. Researchers here asked 224 participants, all of whom did not drink alcohol before enrolling in the trial, to drink 150ml of red wine, white wine or mineral water with a non-calorie-restricted dinner for two years. Once again, no matter which type of wine they drank, there were clear health benefits that didn’t apply to the water drinking participants – namely improved lipid control, and “no significant harmful effects” from “moderate alcohol intake”.
Lung functioning improvements
In a random sampling of 1,555 white and African-American residents from Western New York, researchers from the University of Buffalo collected exhaustive information about each individual’s current and historical alcohol consumption, lifestyle habits and body measurements. Participants were then asked to complete lung-function tests, measuring the volume of air that can be expelled in one breath, both naturally and by force. The emphasis placed upon lung functioning proved to be useful, leading researchers to conclude “that nutrients in wine are responsible for the [observed] positive effect of alcoholic beverages on lung function”, with recent and lifetime red or white wine intake having a strongest association with improved lung function.
One benefit that is exclusive to white wine, and highlighted by a University of Barcelona study is white wine’s greater antioxidant capacity compared to red wine. This is surprising, because white wine’s phenolic content is lower than that generally seen in red wine, and polyphenols are powerful antioxidants in themselves – but the study findings imply that the lower phenolic content that white wine has, is at least as effective as red wine in terms of antioxidant properties.
With all of this in mind, and for the sake of balance, it is only right that we give equal credence to the health risks associated with regular, or indeed semi-regular white wine consumption.
White wine health risks
53.3% of wine sales in the UK were of white wine through 2018, so it is certainly a popular choice. But the issues with white wine come in as a direct result of its lighter, slightly sweeter profile compared to red wine. Andrew Misell of Alcohol Research UK said: “White wine doesn’t have as strong flavours [as red wine], so for many it’s an easy way to unintentionally drink too much. That’s what makes it problematic.” Which brings us to the drawbacks of drinking white wine.
The higher sugar content of white wine versus red wine makes it more calorific. Drinkaware write that an 175ml glass of white wine contains 159 calories, equating to “around half a burger” or “a slice of Madeira cake”, while a larger 250ml glass “contains as many calories as an ice cream”, sitting at approximately 228 calories in a 13% ABV white wine. These calories add up quickly, with the consumption of alcohol interrupting, not just the burning of fat, but the absorption of nutrients into the body too. If left unchecked, weight gain is inevitable, thanks to the relative ease of drinking white wine compared to its red counterpart.
Government figures reveal that liver disease mortality rates have steadily increased since the turn of the century, rising from 15.8 per 100,000 people aged under 75 in 2001-03, to 18.5 per 100,000 in 2015-17. Andrew Langford of the British Liver Trust, lays some of the blame for this on the calorific qualities of white wine, commenting: “Consuming too many calories has an unhealthy effect on the liver, causing fatty deposits and liver disease”. He adds “working [people] who go out for a couple of drinks with colleagues and then have a couple more because they believe it helps them sleep – a complete fallacy – are particularly at risk”.
A Brown University study revealed that white wine drinkers have 13% higher risk of developing melanoma, a level of risk shared by no other type of alcohol. Eunyoung Cho, associate professor of dermatology and epidemiology at Brown University, concluded after the study: “...I would say that alcohol in general is related [to increase melanoma risk], and I would emphasise that white wine is particularly related”.