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One Major Side Effect of Drinking White Wine Instead of Red

You can dodge the hangover but may not be able to avoid a red nose.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

How many times have you heard about the health benefits of red wine? Probably more times than you could count if you're like us. It seems like everywhere you look, people are raving about how great red wine is thanks to the rich concentration of antioxidant polyphenols from the skins of red grapes. Well, that's all great, but what happens if red wine just isn't your thing?

Does choosing a lighter-colored glass of vino mean you're missing out on these benefits? If you're one for a glass of crisp pinot grigio, buttery chardonnay, or cool chablis, read on to find out more about how choosing a glass of white wine over red can mean you end up consuming more sulfites, which may cause some reactions for those sensitive to these additives. And for more, check out Major Effects Drinking Wine Has on Your Health, Says Science.

White wines contain more sulfites than red wines

white wine glasses
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Besides getting you tipsy, a major side effect of drinking wine, and white wine, in particular, is sulfite reactions.

Sulfites are natural compounds found in many foods, including wine. Winemakers have been adding sulfites to wine since ancient times to prevent wild yeasts from turning the grape juice into vinegar.

Clear wines tend to require more sulfites than wines with more color because the antioxidants and tannins in red wines make them more stable. Also, white wines tend to have a higher sugar content than reds, so they need more sulfites to prevent secondary fermentation of the extra sugar and turning brown after bottling.

"White wines tend to be sweeter than red wines and some whites have been shown to have 65% more sugar than reds," says nutritionist Lisa Richards, author of The Candida Diet. In addition to being one of the causes of using more sulfites in the winemaking process, this excess sugar content in white wine is also linked to "weight gain, gut dysbiosis (an imbalance of gut microbiota caused by an overgrowth of bad bacteria), and inflammation," Richards adds; however, you'll likely experience the latter side effects when drinking any type of wine in excess.

RELATEDThe 5 Best New Low-Sugar Wines on Shelves

Who is more likely to be sensitive to sulfites?

People who have asthma may experience mild to severe immune-system reactions to the sulfites, particularly those in white wine, according to a report in the journal Allergologie Select. The sulfur dioxide generated in the stomach after drinking white wine irritates receptors in the airways, causing an allergic reaction resulting in chest tightening, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

What sulfite sensitivity looks like

For some people, white wine's sulfites may not cause an immune-system reaction but a digestive sensitivity.

Symptoms of sulfite sensitivity can include bloating, diarrhea, indigestion, and vomiting, according to allergists at New York Allergy & Sinus Centers. To avoid the sensitivity symptoms, you can try buying a white wine without added sulfites but realize that you can't completely eliminate sulfites because they are a natural byproduct of fermentation. (Related: Crazy Side Effects Alcohol Has on Your Gut, Says Science.)

If you don't want to give up your cocktail before dinner, try several types of white and red wines to see if any don't trigger symptoms.

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Jeff Csatari
Jeff Csatari is responsible for editing Galvanized Media books and magazines and for advising journalism students through the Zinczenko New Media Center at Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA. Read more