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Wine and Health: Drink Wine, not Water to avoid Food Poisoning

Posted: Thursday, 09 February 2017 11:06


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Wine and Health: Drink Wine, not Water to avoid Food Poisoning

Feb 09: It is often believed that water is the main culprit for causing food poisoning while traveling to other countries or even different parts of India but several studies suggest that the bacteria causing food-borne diseases, can be inactivated by drinking some alcohol in lieu of water and a glass or two of wine are just what the doctor orders to avoid such problems

In wine there is wisdom,

in beer there is freedom,

in water there is bacteria.

One of the most frequent Posts in the social media, this cliché is attributed to Benjamin Franklin. This might even have been true in the pre-bottled water days or when one is not certain about the quality of water, especially in suspect places in India. In a number of carefully controlled trials, scientists ha​ve demonstrated that drinking 1 liter of  (untreated) water every day, would imply the absorption of more than one kilo of E.coli bacteria found in faeces. No wonder that during olden days wine producing countries like Italy and Spain drank huge quantities of wine per capita. When I travelled to Germany after finishing my engineering education in IIT Delhi, I was advised not to drink tap water but only beer, wine or apfelsaft (an apple drink)!

It is a given that overindulging while travelling can wreak havoc on your immune system​. Studies have shown that drinking alcohol could actually be one of the best ways to prevent some of the food borne diseases-the the risk decreases significantly. Alcohol's high acidity makes it easier for the stomach's natural acidity to kill stomach bugs like listeria, salmonella and E. Coli. A Study in Turkey found that grape pomace, a by-product of winemaking, may be effective in killing harmful bacteria that cause food to spoil.

Another Study in 2007 found red wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Shiraz inhibited the growth f food bacteria though it won't necessarily prevent or cure bacterial infections.

An earlier Study had suggested that wine, particularly white wine, helped kill E. coli and salmonella. Food scientists at Oregon State University in Corvalis found out that the combination of alcohol and acidity prevented the bacteria from reproducing, prompting the researchers even to work on developing a wine-based disinfectant.

Since wine is the best drink to be enjoyed with food and even paired with dishes, it makes sense for travelers to have a glass or two of wine with food instead of water if the sanitary conditions so warrant. Naturally, when one is sure of the quality of bottled water (in many parts of India-especially in the tier 2 and tier 3 cities you cannot be assured of the genuineness of the bottled water) wine ​should be one of the options.

According to ​a ​ U.K.-based food scientist Richard Conroy if you are traveling to a place like Mexico, where salmonella is more common, you could be protected by having some wine or even tequila with dinner. He says that all-inclusive resorts are some of the most likely places to pick up food-borne illnesses while traveling, especially when buffets are served, since food can sit out under a heat lamp for hours on end. Poorly treated water sources are another culprit for the ruin of many a holiday. He says he is happy to encourage travelers to enjoy a drink for medical purposes.

But avoiding food poisoning isn't as simple as enjoying a glass of wine in your hotel room at the end of the day. According to Randy Worobo, professor of food microbiology at Cornell University, alcohol must be consumed either while eating the contaminated food or soon after in order to deactivate the bacteria. The amount you drink matters, too. "The higher the percentage of alcohol, the more likely you will get rid of the food-borne bacteria. "So, your wine ​with 14 percent alcohol would have more effect in terms of killing the food-borne pathogens compared to lower-percentage alcohol such as beer. Of course, one must not drink excessively due to the harmful effects of alcohol."

So next time you find the cliché on Facebook, think of the potential benefits of wine for a traveller-​​even within your own country or city. When in doubt, have a glass of wine-if you can find it at affordable price, of course

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