According to the study by Professor Milos Taborsky from the Czech Republic, wine only protects against cardiovascular disease (CVD) in people who exercise.
"This is the first randomised trial comparing the effects of red and white wine on markers of atherosclerosis in people at mild to moderate risk of CVD. We found that moderate wine drinking was only protective in people who exercised. Red and white wine produced the same results," Taborsky said.
The study is the first long-term, prospective randomised trial comparing the effect of red and white wine on markers of atherosclerosis.
It included 146 people with mild to moderate risk of cardiovascular disease. Participants were randomised to one year of moderate consumption of red wine or white wine from the same year and wine region of the Czech Republic.
Participants kept a logbook on their consumption of wine and other alcoholic beverages, medication use, and amount and type of exercise.
The researchers found that there was no difference between High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels at the beginning of the study compared to one year in either the red or white wine groups.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol was lower in both groups at one year while total cholesterol was lower only in the red wine group.
"A rise in HDL cholesterol is the main indication of a protective effect against CVD, therefore we can conclude that neither red or white wine had any impact on study participants as a whole," Taborsky said.
"The only positive and continuous result was in the subgroup of patients who took more exercise, which means regular exercise at least twice a week, plus the wine consumption.
"In this group HDL cholesterol increased and LDL and total cholesterol decreased in the red and white wine groups. There may be some synergy between the low dose of ethyl alcohol in wine and exercise which is protective against CVD," Taborsky said.
"Our current study shows that the combination of moderate wine drinking plus regular exercise improves markers of atherosclerosis, suggesting that this combination is protective against cardiovascular disease," Taborsky concluded.
The research was presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress in Barcelona.