Q: Does drinking white Zinfandel have the same heart health benefits of drinking red wine, since it's originally from a red grape?
A: Interesting question! You're correct that the light pink, typically slightly sweet wine is made from the bold, red Zinfandel grape. Invented by mistake in the 1970s, white Zinfandel as we know it is technically a rosé, made by limiting the wine's exposure to the grape skins, so the color stays pale.
You're also correct that, in the past, red wine has gotten most of the attention when it comes to heart health. Red wines contain high levels of resveratrol, a potent polyphenol found in the skins of grapes and the chemical responsible for many of the health benefits attributed to wine. For example, in 2003, Chinese researchers found that resveratrol may assist in improving cardiovascular health. But because rosés, including white Zinfandel, are made with only brief contact between the grape skins and the juice, resveratrol infuses into the softly tinted wine at a lower level than seen in red wines. If we follow this line of thinking, we would conclude that rosés do not have the same heart benefits as red wine.
But going back further, numerous studies, in both men and women, have found links between the alcohol itself and improved cardiovascular health—with benefits seen for wine, beer and spirits drinkers. And recent medical research has also investigated the effects of white wine on the heart. Study results released in 2014 suggest that red and white wine are equally protective against cardiovascular disease—but only when combined with regular exercise. In addition, earlier this year, Italian researchers reported that white wine contains polyphenols aside from resveratrol that may keep blood vessels healthy.
Studies with conflicting findings highlight the difficulty in isolating the exact components in wine that give it such promise as part of a healthy diet, and in figuring out how they all work together in your body. DNA may play a role, and the overall lifestyle that wine drinkers enjoy may also contribute to such positive results. Regardless of the biochemical specifics, it does appear that tipping your glass seems to do the heart good, whether it's filled with red, white or white Zinfandel. —Douglas DeJesus
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