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White Wine May Have
Health Benefits of Red

Aficionados of white wine can take heart. Israeli scientists have devised a way to make white wine that boasts health benefits similar to those of red wine, which is believed to help ward off heart disease.

Research recently published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry details a process that yields white wine rich in disease-fighting antioxidants, much like red wine already is.

White wine traditionally is made without the use of grape skins, while red wine is made by fermenting the juice from grapes along with the skins. Grape skin provides red wine with its color, and it also contains the highest concentration of polyphenols, which are potent antioxidants.

Researchers led by biochemist Michael Aviram of the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Israel, developed a method to make white wine using grape-skin polyphenols.

Aviram noted that oxidized cholesterol in the blood is deposited in the arteries and can cause blockages and heart attacks. Consuming antioxidants can help prevent this process.

``In order to prevent this oxidation of cholesterol, we need to consume antioxidants, preferably natural antioxidants that you get from fruits and vegetables,'' he said in an interview.

Aviram cited what nutritionists call the ``French paradox.''

``The people in southern France, even though they eat fatty food, they get almost one fifth the rate of heart attacks as, let's say, the Finnish people who also eat fatty food. Studies demonstrated that it has to do with the consumption of red wine in southern France,'' Aviram said.

However, other researchers argue that the link between wine consumption and reduced risk of heart disease remains unproven in the absence of long-term human clinical trials. THERE'S MORE THAN ONE WAY TO SKIN A GRAPE

``Many people, including me, like white wine. So I said, 'How can I prepare white wine...with this beneficial health effect on cardiovascular diseases?'''

Aviram felt he could increase antioxidants in white wine by extracting more grape skin polyphenols during processing.

His research team used whole squeezed grapes and incubated them for up to 18 hours in the presence of alcohol before removing the skins. This increased white wine polyphenols up to six times the normal level, and the revved-up wine showed antioxidant activity similar to that of red wine.

The polyphenol content of the white wine was still just one quarter of the amount in red wine. But Aviram said the similar antioxidant activity between the two wines suggests that white wine contains varieties of polyphenols with higher antioxidant activity than those found in the red wine.

There was also one interesting side effect of the process: the wine had the same color and aroma of regular white wine. But the addition of alcohol to the fermentation process produced an increase in the sugar level of the wine, yielding a sweet, dessert-type white wine.

``I like this dessert white wine,'' Aviram said, ``but I'd like to get dry white wine which also will have a red wine-like health property.''

At least one wine manufacturer in Israel has begun making the white wine using the technique developed by Aviram's laboratory. He said he expects the new white wine to be sold in the United States by the end of the year.


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