Medical reports from the past few years advise that a variety of active compounds in wine, particularly red wine, have a protective effect against coronary heart disease, cancer, travelers’ diarrhea, and Helicobacter pylori infection. Modest wine consumption may have other health benefits as well, although these may derive from different components.

According to a 2007 research document published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry1, scientists have discovered that both red and white wines may help to prevent the growth of oral streptococci. In the mouth, streptococci can colonize tooth surfaces and initiate the formation of dental plaque, which can lead to cavities and gum disease. Some strains of these bacteria can cause strep throat, tonsillitis, and other respiratory infections.

Several new studies have demonstrated that wine holds antimicrobial properties, and prior research established the streptococcal growth-inhibiting capabilities of anti-microbials, however, this study from Italy was the first looking at the effect of wine on specific oral streptococci strains. The researchers used two commonly available Italian supermarket wines for the experiments.

After ascertaining that both red and white wines prevent the growth of the streptococcal bacteria in the lab, the study authors looked for the specific active components of wine causing this effect. To narrow down the source of antimicrobial action, researchers removed the alcohol from the wines, and controlled for resulting acidity. They then applied the preparation to several strains of the streptococci bacteria in the laboratory.

In the control group, which had no preparation applied, the bacteria reproduced and thrived while in those samples treated with wine, the bacteria did not increase in numbers and, in fact, began to die. The researchers then repeated the experiments several times, confirming the initial results.

To conclude, the authors identified that the organic acids in wine have effective antimicrobial properties against specific oral streptococci, which might be helpful in preventing both tooth decay and upper respiratory tract infections.

Remember, as with anything, moderation is the key.

First published in the Inside Tract® newsletter issue 165 – January/February 2008
1. Daglia M, et al. Antibacterial activity of red and white wine against oral Streptococci. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2007;55:5038-5042.