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Wine industry trumpets anti-bacteria research

May 7, 1996
Web posted at: 8:15 p.m. EDT

From Correspondent Eugenia Halsey

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The purported health benefits of wine are once again being touted by the industry claiming the Greek god Bacchus among its founders.

Wine makers have touted studies linking wine with good cardiovascular health. Now the industry is hailing a study of wine's ability to kill harmful bacteria contained in food.


Dr. Martin Weisse of West Virginia University has conducted research suggesting one to two glasses of wine with your meals may help prevent food poisoning, dysentery, and so-called traveler's diarrhea. (153K AIFF sound or 153K WAV sound)

Weisse's research, published last year in the British Medical Journal, showed both red and white wine to be more effective at wiping out bacteria than other types of alcohol, or even Pepto Bismol.

Weisse thinks there is a compound in wine released during fermentation that kills bacteria such as E. coli, salmonella, and shigella.

In anecdotal support of his research, Weisse notes people in ancient times frequently drank wine as a digestive aid.


But a consumer group says Weisse's research is flawed. The Center for Science in the Public Interest says that Weisse merely mixed ingredients with bacteria in test tubes, a process that does not approximate conditions within a human's digestive system. The group says all the West Virginia doctor has proven is that wine in a glass kills bacteria, not that wine in a human being kills bacteria.

The benefits of wine consumption will not go unsung, however, if wine producers have any say. The industry is renewing its request to the government for the modification of warning labels on wine bottles.

Wine labels

Wine labels currently warn of health problems that may arise from imbibing the age-old drink. The wine industry wants the labels to point consumers toward new United States Dietary Guidelines stating, for the first time, that wine can be drunk in moderation. Wine producers have sent a letter petitioning the government's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms for such a change.

The ATF says it is looking into the matter, but a number of groups oppose any alteration of wine-label warnings.

Experts like Mary Dufore of the National Institutes of Health feel that it is too early to say if wine produces the benefits claimed for it (162K AIFF sound or 162K WAV sound). Dufore feels more study is needed to determine the risks and benefits of moderate wine consumption.

Many health officials advise, despite the hopes and wishes of the wine industry, that people who do not drink wine now have no medical need to pick up the habit. They say the same health benefits can be had through regular exercise and a regular diet of fruits and vegetables.

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