Is natural wine really better for you?

Natural wine is one of the hottest categories in wine right now, and the health claims are just as enthralling: Drink natural wine, advocates say, and your headaches and hangovers will be less severe; you will not feel dehydrated; Your gut health will improve.

“There is a widespread perception that when you drink something cleaner, you are drinking something healthier,” says Anita Oberholster, wine and grape industry expert at the University of California, Davis. But, she said, “there’s no clear evidence of that.”

So, is natural wine really better for you than its conventional counterparts, or is that just a bit of savvy marketing? We took a look at some of the most common natural wine health claims and asked the experts if they had any science to back them up.

Before evaluating the health claims of natural wine, it’s important to agree on what we’re talking about. Unlike products with certified organic labels, which must comply with a set of regulations and be clear about federal request, the best natural wines are the result of a set of deliberate, voluntary production principles: Use grapes grown organically; do not add anything (like yeast) or modify anything (like acidity) during fermentation; do not filter the final product (to retain its natural flavor and fun bacteria); and add little or no sulfites (chemicals that are naturally produced during fermentation or added to preserve freshness or minimize oxidation).

At worst, natural wine is a marketing buzzword, capitalizing on a hugely popular cultural trend.

“It doesn’t sound like regulated terminology, so if a company tells you they’re selling natural wine, it’s impossible to tell what they’re really claiming,” Dr. Oberholster said.

A repeated argument is that conventional wines can contain many harmful pesticides, while natural wines – grown using organic farming methods – do not.

The evidence: According to Dr. Oberholster, all wine sold in the United States – whether regular or otherwise – may only contain trace amounts of pesticide residue. Regulators say any price above that would pose a risk to human health. “The allowable levels of pesticides in wine are even more difficult to detect,” she said. “You wouldn’t be able to pick them up without advanced tools. These levels are lower than anything that could affect human health. “

Of course, there is no evidence that such small exposures to pesticides can affect health. But maybe later on, we can learn that cumulative exposure over time can occur. “Research is evolving, and what we know to be true now may not always be true,” says Dr. Oberholster.

Aficionados have the feeling that natural wine is less harsh or damaging to your overall structure – “gentle to one’s system”, as Simon Woolf, a journalist and expert wine, said in a 2020 interview with the Wine Scholar Guild.

Alice Feiring, a famous wine writer of New York City, says, “I don’t want to sound like other fanatics about this, but natural wine actually feels better in your body,” though she carefully saved Note that this is not a scientifically proven claim.

Because natural wines tend to have lower alcohol by volume (ABV) levels than regular wines, some say it’s easier to make the next day.

The evidence: Andrew Waterhouse, professor emeritus and director of the Robert Mondavi Institute of Food and Wine Sciences at the University of California, Davis, says that natural wine won’t make you feel good the next morning.

“There is absolutely no evidence that your natural intoxication is any less severe,” he says. Ms. Feiring agrees, noting that she drinks only “nature alcohol almost exclusively, and I’ve had more than my occasional binge.”

“There is no magic trick to avoid them,” she continued. Ms. Feiring added that while some wines naturally have lower ABVs, this is not the rule at all – and some natural wines have very high alcohol levels. “Just go to your local wine shop and check out the label if you want to debunk that popular myth,” she says.

Another popular claim is that both natural and added sulfites in common wine are harmful to human health. It is true that excessive sulfite exposure can cause a range of problems, including mild headaches and dehydration, and severe respiratory failure.

In the 1980s, it was widely reported that high amounts of sulfites were sprayed on salad greens to prevent them from wilting or turning brown. make a lot of people sick.

Regular wines are legally allowed to contain 350 parts per million sulfites, while natural wines typically limit sulfites to 100 parts per million – but they often contain less than that.

The evidence: Amarat Simonne, also Amy, is a professor of food safety at the University of Florida who has studied the effects of sulfites on human health. She says that unless you’re among the 2 to 3 percent of people with sulfite intolerance, exposure to legally permissible levels of sulfites in foods and drinks won’t negatively affect health. your.

“But you never know,” she added. “People’s tolerance to sulfites can change over time.”

People with true sulfite intolerance, especially if they have asthma, can face respiratory complications from exposure to the chemicals in common wine. Most likely, someone with a sulfite intolerance may find themselves dehydrated and irritable especially after drinking unnatural wine – symptoms that correspond to a traditional hangover.

But Dr Waterhouse’s assessment is more blunt: “I’m not aware of any data to indicate that wine with added sulfites has negative health outcomes for most people.”

Finally, some enthusiasts argue that because natural wine is rich in good bacteria, which are not filtered out or minimized during the winemaking process, natural wines May improve gut health.

The evidence: Some limited studies have careful shown that red wine may be beneficial for digestion, but more research is still needed. And none of these studies distinguish natural from conventional wine – nor do, says David Mills, molecular biologist and distinguished professor of food science & technology, viticulture. & technology at the University of California, Davis, said.

“There won’t be any significant difference in microbial content whether it’s called natural wine or not,” said Dr. “Anyway, alcohol will kill off most of the beneficial bacteria, so alcohol will never come anywhere close to kimchi or yogurt.”

Regardless of how it is produced, wine – or any alcoholic beverage, for that matter – can cause significant harm. A handful of studies have suggested that moderate wine drinking may have some benefits, such as Improve heart health or lower cholesterol, has been the best conclusion. And health risks – cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease and dementia, including some – many and well documented.

Beyond that, says Dr. Mills, there’s no strong research base on natural wine.

If you like how natural wine tastes or if you want to support sustainable farming, go ahead and drink it. But just know that it may not be the healthy choice you might have thought it would be.

Jesse Hirsch is the editor of Ambrook Research, a data-driven journalism facility on modern agriculture. He was previously the managing editor of The Counter, a non-profit publication on the food business and agriculture.

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