While it may seem surprising, this discovery is not new. In 1988, some researchers carried out a study (1) that tested how germs survive in beverages. They used seven types of drinks including wine, beer, sour mix, soda, diet soda, milk, and water as samples. They then added various types of pathogens such as Salmonella, Shigella, and enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli to all the drinks and left them for 48 hours.
Their findings showed that of all the beverages, the wine had the least amount of live bacteria. They also discovered that the pathogens thrived in milk and water and a small number died off in the beer and soda drinks.
This paper concluded that the survival rate of bacteria in beverages is determined by the level of acidity of the drink. For this reason, the researchers advise people who visit places with high cases of traveler’s diarrhea to consider the acidity of their drinks to avoid infections.
What is the Link Between Wine and Sore Throat?
Another group of researchers did a follow-up study that analyzed the antibacterial properties of wine in the mouth. This 2007 study (2) was published by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The researchers specifically tested for the effect of wine on the growth of Streptococci which causes dental plaque and Streptococcus, the pathogen responsible for sore throats. The result of this study showed that while both types of wine have disinfectant properties, red wine killed more germs than white wine.
However, this study disagrees with the conclusion of the 1988 paper. The researchers point out that neither the alcohol nor acidity of the wine had any effect on the pathogens. But instead, the antibacterial property of wine is due to the presence of some organic compounds found in the drink.
The researchers made this conclusion after they separated the organic compounds from the other components of wine. These chemicals include lactic, malic, succinic, and tartaric acids. Each compound was isolated, diluted, and then retested for its effect on bacteria survival rate. The study reported that the less acidic the wine, the more it killed oral Streptococci and Streptococcus with effectiveness of up to 99.9%.
While drinking or gargling wine can help treat your dental plaque and sore throat, you should be careful when using it because strong evidence (3, 4) says it can also damage your dental enamel. Dr. Bartlett from the Academy of General Dentistry advises that you should wait at least 20 minutes before you brush your teeth after sipping wine. By doing this, you’ll avoid getting the acidic liquid onto your tooth enamel (5).
So, the next time someone invites you for a drink, don’t hold back. Enjoy your glass of red wine but remember to drink in moderation. If you’re using wine for sore throat, make sure you’re also getting enough rest and drinking a lot of water.