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metals in wine, health effects of wine

Heavy Metals Found in Many Wines

November 03, 2008 04:28 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Wine aficionados may want to rethink their daily glass, as researchers have found dangerous levels of heavy metals in more than 100 types of red and white wines.

Study Warns of Deadly Metals

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The levels of industrial metals found in wines from around the world exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency health standards, according to British scientists. The findings cast a dark light on the widespread habit of drinking a daily glass of red wine, known for its health benefits.

A study published in Chemistry Central Journal calculated the target hazard quotients, or THQ, for seven metal ions, such as copper, manganese and vanadium, found in wine. The THQ is used by the EPA to determine safe levels of long-term exposure to chemicals. According to the EPA, a THQ higher than 1 is indicative of a health risk and prolonged exposure over a person’s lifetime can cause health problems. Most wines have a THQ from 50 to 200 per glass, and some of the wines studied had levels as high as 300.

“I was surprised at this finding, and would be very interested if regulatory authorities and food-safety people will look at this,” Declan Naughton, a professor of biomolecular science at Kingston University in London, said to WebMD. “The wine industry should look at ways to remove these metals from wine, or to find out where the metals come from and prevent this from happening.”

Gladys Horiuchi, a spokeswoman for the trade group Wine Institute of California, says that although the study is worrisome, the group is checking the credibility of the study first. “We’re concerned about the perceptions of wine because the publicity … raises questions in people’s minds about wine in general,” Horiuchi said to Scientific American.
The wines tested in the study were from Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Jordan, Macedonia, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia and Spain. Wines from Argentina, Brazil and Italy were found not to contain risky metal levels.

It is not known where the metals in the wines originated, but some possible culprits include the soil where winemaking grapes are grown, the yeast used in the fermentation process or fungicides used on vines.

Vanadium causes lung and respiratory problems, while manganese causes manganism and Parkinson’s disease. Copper in excessive amounts can led to oxidative damage that is associated with rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease and cancer.

Historical Context: Romans drank lead with their wine

The presence of metal contaminants in wine is nothing new. During the Roman Empire, lead was thought to add a sweet flavor to wine and food, and winemakers often used lead pots and kettles to boil crushed grapes. Lead was also used in various other daily implements, such as pipes, dishes, cosmetics and coins. “For in the boiling,” wrote Roman winemaker Columella, “brazen vessels throw off copper rust which has a disagreeable flavor.” The Romans eventually began to notice an epidemic of mysterious diseases and started to connect them to the metal. It is suspected that several members of the aristocracy, including Julius Caesar and Caesar Augustus, suffered from lead poisoning. But lead continued to play an important role in everyday life and is suspected to have led to the downfall of the Roman Empire.

Related Topic: Wine’s health benefits

Reference: Wine

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