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Raise a glass to wine with, well, none other than wine itself. You see, studies affirm that moderate consumption of alcohol indeed bears positive effects on human health. This evidence, however, has always been hard to endorse given the fear that it would be taken as permission to drink in excess. But with wine usually considered the most body-friendly of the bunch, does it matter whether you choose red or white for your health? Grab a glass of red, sit back, and learn just why it actually may matter.

Alcohol is taboo in health circles, because excess consumption can lead to some serious health problems. However, that only means a little can go a long way. Alcohol can be part of health lifestyle, even as a tool to improving health. Little known to the average alcohol consumer, the Center for Human Nutrition even pegs beer as part of a healthy lifestyle, given its antioxidant, protein, and B vitamin content. That’s no invitation to resurrect the keg stand from college days, but it does shed some positive light on the daily bottle of booze (or two, for men). But when it comes to wine, the curiosity remains: is red wine the best option?

Wine confers considerable health benefits if limited to one glass per day for women and two glasses per day for men. These benefits are due to its polyphenols, resveratrol, procyanidins and flavonoid content.

Molecules present in grapes and in wine change cellular metabolism and signaling, which ultimately work to reduce the risk of arterial disease. Red wine in particular, has popularly been believed to be the healthier choice, with its heightened prevalence of phenolic acids and polyphenols. Red wine’s polyphenol resveratrol, a compound known for its antioxidant properties, is linked to a marked improvement in heart health. In a two-year investigation, laboratory mice given a daily does of resveratrol, equivalent to two glasses of red wine, were half as likely to develop cancerous tumors.

In comparing red wine to white wine, a 2011 study showed that red wine holds more anti-cholesterol-oxidation capability, which could lead to greater health benefits in preventing cardiovascular disease. Essentially, red wine was fifty imes more efficient than white wine in preventing cholesterol oxidation. This doesn’t push white wine out of the picture; it simply gives you perspective on how truly unique red wine is.

But take heed: some reds are better than others. Pinot noir tops the list as consistently exhibiting the highest concentration of resveratrol. Madirans and cabernets contain high levels of procyanidins, which is an antioxidant that contributes to arterial health. Syrahs and merlots are also rich in procyanidins, despite having a different flavor profile than madirans and cabernets. It also seems that the dryer the wine, the more full it is in flavonoids; the sweeter the wine (i.e. Zinfandels), the less full it is of flavonoids.

Photo Credit: Aixcracker