Sulphites: A Growing Intolerance
Charlotte Palmer is a food specialist who coaches individuals on how to improve their overall health, soothe food allergies and rebalance digestive issues through healthy eating. Here she discusses sulphites found in wine and how to sooth sulphite allergies.
Sulphites is an inclusive term for sulphur dioxide (S02). SO2 is a preservative widely used in winemaking (and much of the food industry) because of its antioxidant and antibacterial properties. SO2 plays an important role in preventing oxidation and maintaining a wine’s freshness. Although only a portion of SO2 added to wine will be effective as an antioxidant. The rest will combine with other elements in the wine and cease to be useful.
All wines contain sulphur dioxide in various forms, collectively known as sulphites. Even in completely unsulphured wine it is present at concentrations of up to ten milligrams per litre. Commercially made wines can contain from ten to twenty times that amount.
Sulphites are not considered harmful unless you lack the enzymes necessary to break them down. Even so, sulphites are a growing concern among the population and have been linked to health problems from hangovers and migraines that last for days, to body swelling and potentially fatal allergic reactions in the extremely sensitive.
Asthma sufferers also have a strong sensitivity to sulphites which may be dangerous even at low levels.
Sulphur Levels in Different Wine Types
Red wines contain antioxidants obtained from the skins and stems during fermentation. Despite this, many conventional wines still contain added sulphites at high levels.
White wines and roses are not left in contact with their skins, therefore do not contain natural protective anti-oxidants so invariably contain SO2.
Sweet wines have the biggest doses because of the high amount of sugar they contain that bind to a high proportion of any SO2 added. To obtain the same level of sulphur dioxide, the total concentration has to be higher than for dry wines.
The World Health Organisation recommends a maximum daily intake of 0.7mg of sulphur dioxide per kilogram of body weight.
Regular consumption of conventional wines exceeds the RDA of sulphur dioxide.
For those who are only mildly sensitive, try exploring organic and biodynamic wines especially of the red variety which are the most likely to be natural without added sulphites.
Sainsbury’s offer a sulphite free and organic wine, as do Planet Organic.