Research: Wine may fight bacteria that cause sore throats, plaque

By Tiffany Peden

(U-WIRE) UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – When suffering from a sore throat, get plenty of rest, drink water and sip on some Cabernet Sauvignon — at least that’s what the researchers of the latest wine study suggest.

According to the study from the University of Pavia in Italy, compounds in both red and white wine have antibacterial qualities that fight strains of Streptococci, which are more commonly known as the bacteria that cause sore throats.

Streptococci have also been shown to cause the formation of dental plaque, which led researchers to suggest that wines could be a factor in preventing dental plaque as well.

In the experiment, wine was de-alcoholized and neutralized to make sure it wasn’t the alcohol or acidity that caused its germ-fighting abilities.

The study found that the organic compounds possessed the antibacterial qualities; they killed 99.9 percent of the Streptococci bacteria.

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    The study found that when the compounds that have the antibacterial qualities were not isolated, the wine’s effect on the bacteria wasn’t as strong.

    “This might be explained considering that in wine, there are unidentified factors that can oppose [antibacterial] compound action,” researcher Gabriella Gazzani wrote in an e-mail.

    Gene Proch, manager of Mount Nittany Vineyard and Winery, said there were some previously known benefits of wine.

    “A glass or two a day gives you health benefits, namely heart benefits,” Proch said.

    He added that red wines especially act as an antioxidant and have anti-aging properties.

    Prior to the study, wine had been known to protect against heart disease and cancer as well as fight bacteria that cause diarrhea; however, the effect of wine on oral bacteria had not yet been investigated, according to the study.

    Dr. Ronald Zentz, senior director of the American Dental Association’s council on scientific affairs, said he disagreed with the study’s conclusion on wine’s effect on teeth.

    “When people drink wine, the exposure time in the mouth is minimal,” he said. “When you take a drink, it goes right down the throat. The question I have is how much exposure to the bacteria is needed?”

    He also pointed out that the study was done in vitro.

    “They say they’re looking at testing in the mouth,” he said. “In this situation, it’s a lab test.”

    Testing outside of the mouth, Zentz said, discounts other effects on the mouth. For example, saliva has a pH of six and could dilute what a person is drinking, which may alter the germ-fighting abilities of wine, he said.

    Zentz said that just like anything else, “in excess, there can be negative effects.”

    “Red wine can cause staining on the surface of teeth because of the color,” he added. “Also, people who drink too much are at a higher risk to oral cancer.”

    Gazzani said since the study has only been done in an artificial environment, there is more research to be done on this subject.

    “Further tests are required to verify if the registered antibacterial activity against oral Streptococci … persists and has positive effects on oral health,” she wrote.