Red wine gets all the good press for the cardiovascular benefits of the flavonoids it contains, but U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers are reporting that one white wine grape has the reds beat when it comes to slowing weight gain and lowering cholesterol, at least in laboratory animals.
The researchers put hamsters on a high-fat diet supplemented by flour made from the seeds of grapes used for chardonnay, syrah and cabernet sauvignon wines. They found that the white grapes easily beat the reds in slowing the hamsters' weight gain and limiting production of cholesterol.
They believe the higher levels of flavonoids in the chardonnay grape seeds altered the work of genes related to fat metabolism. They also had an anti-inflammatory effect, according to a study the USDA scientists published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in February. In part, the researchers say in another paper yet to be published, the anti-oxidant compounds in the chardonnay grape seeds may work with bacteria in the gut to produce beneficial effects.
The flour production also provides grape-growers a way to use seeds that currently are discarded and dumped during the chardonnay production.
The Mayo Clinic has begun human trials to determine whether the same results can be achieved, said Wally Yokoyama, a research chemist for the USDA in Albany, Calif., and one of the authors of the two studies.
The innovation is one of many in a new USDA report released this week.
"We have over 100 locations where our scientists, no pun intended, are working in the vineyards of new ideas, new products, new businesses," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in an interview.