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White wines may be just as good for you as red (in some ways, at least)

A small glass of white wine (a half-glass or a taste) in front of a full glass of red wine and a full glass of white wine. (Andrea Bruce/The Washington Post)

Throughout the years scientists have documented the benefits of red wine — for heart health, cholesterol control and possibly even cancer prevention — in numerous studies. But what about its cousin, the white kind?

The short answer is that the evidence supporting white wine's health benefits, while still limited, is growing. While previous studies on the elixir have been mostly focused on testing in animals or on testing the components of the drink itself, scientists have recently reported on two randomized clinical trials that found good news for white wine enthusiasts.

The first study, called In Vino Veritas (In Wine, Truth) involved tracking 146 subjects half of whom drank pinot noir, and half of whom drank a white chardonnay-pinot over a year. The researchers reported at a European Society of Cardiology meeting last year that those who worked out twice per week and drank wine — either kind — saw a significant improvement in cholesterol levels.

The second, published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, had a similar design. Researchers in Israel recruited 224 volunteers with diabetes 2 to drink 150 mL of either white wine, red wine or mineral water (the control) with dinner every day for two years. They were encouraged to eat a Mediterranean diet, which includes mostly plant-based foods and replaces butter with olive oil, but their caloric intake was not restricted.

[Surprising finding from heart study: Moderate drinking may have ‘cardiotoxic’ effects in elderly hearts]

The researchers measured the participants in numerous ways, including lipid and glycemic control profiles, cardiovascular workups and quality of life indexes, before, during and after the intervention at 0, six and 24 months respectively.

They asked the participants to return bottles to try to improve adherence and asked them to complete a different questionnaire about alcohol intake outside of the study.

The results were compelling: Drinking a glass of red wine (but not white wine) every day appeared to improve cardiac health and cholesterol management. But both red and white wine seemed to improve glucose control in some patients.

The researchers, from the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev–Soroka Medical Center and Nuclear Research Center Negev, Israel, said that the study "suggests that initiating moderate wine intake, especially red wine, among well-controlled diabetics as part of a healthy diet is apparently safe and modestly decreases cardiometabolic risk."

[Red wine’s heralded ingredient — resveratrol — may actually hinder benefits of exercise]

Full of the same plant flavonoids in red wine that are thought to have a protective effect, white wine has been studied significantly less despite some promising initial findings. White wine has been shown by researchers at the University of Barcelona to be higher in antioxidants and has been associated with weight loss and anti-aging effects.

Interestingly, researchers say no material differences were identified in blood pressure, adiposity, liver function, drug therapy, symptoms or quality of life among those who drank red wine, white wine or mineral water except for one thing. Sleep quality, it seems, improved in both wine groups.

This post has been updated.

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