Here's another healthy reason to drink wine: It fights food-borne pathogens. A University of Missouri-Columbia study recently found promising evidence that harmful bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli can be killed with a little red wine or grape juice.
"People have been consuming wine for eons," said Azlin Mustapha, a microbiologist in the food science program at the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources who used more than a dozen commercial wines in the research. "Even before we understood what it did, people were already using it for medicinal effects."
Anecdotal evidence and red wine's known cardiovascular impact as well as its potential for lowering cholesterol and as an anti-carcinogen led Mustapha and doctoral student Atreyee Das to explore whether red wine could kill pathogens while allowing protobodies - "good" bacteria - to live.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that food-borne diseases affect 76 million Americans each year and result in 5,000 deaths. "What we're seeing now already is very promising," Mustapha said, explaining that when pathogens are introduced to a test tube containing certain red wines, pathogens are killed.
"Sixty percent" concentration "wine is enough to kill bacteria," said Das, 26, who began the research as her doctoral work in the winter semester. "We're trying to delve in deeper," she added, noting that additional pathogens will be tested. Das and Mustapha said animal tests will be conducted next, a necessary step toward learning whether the wines have a similar effect in humans.
Mustapha said that merlot, cabernet, pinot noir and shiraz varieties worked best, with no differentiation between brands or domestic and imported wines.
White wines and grape juice were also tested but had no effect, indicating that that something present in the grapes' skin, which produces the red color, fights off the bacteria. Although results of the experiment are promising, Mustapha warns this is no reason to head to a local vineyard on a daily basis.
"I would not recommend that people go out and consume wine in excess," she said, noting that it is not known whether drinking wine before exposure to pathogens or after the fact would be most effective.
The researchers estimate they have two or three more years of research on the subject. Mustapha said research like this might be used to produce a novel wine containing protobodies.