Natural Foods Merchandiser

Nutrition Q&A with Dan Lukaczer, N.D.

I get headaches from red wine. Could they be caused by sulfites?

Sulfites have been used for hundreds of years as a preservative—controlling microbial growth and preventing spoilage of certain perishable foods and beverages. They are often added during the winemaking process, but are also a byproduct of yeast fermentation and, therefore, found naturally in many wines. Symptoms of sulfite sensitivity can include skin rash, redness, hives, itching, flushing and tingling—but generally not headaches. Severe reactions include difficulty breathing and loss of consciousness.

Many people seem to get headaches from red wine. However, this does not appear to be related to the sulfite content of the wine, as white wines often have more sulfites than red. Headaches are probably due to other substances contained within red wine that may cause sensitivity or an allergic reaction, including histamines, tyramine (produced from the natural breakdown of the amino acid tyrasine) and, surprisingly, flavonoids.

Some people get headaches from only certain types of red wine. You may want to experiment with small quantities of various wines until you find some that don?t bother you. In addition, sometimes these headaches can be avoided by taking an anti-inflammatory such as aspirin before ingestion. Natural anti-inflammatories such as bromelain and curcumin (Curcumin longa) may work as well.

It is estimated that only 1 percent of the population is sensitive to sulfites, but if you are asthmatic, your chance of an allergic reaction increases to 5 percent. Most doctors warn their asthmatic patients to be watchful of sulfites in food. They can be such a significant problem that the Food and Drug Administration requires labeling of foods containing 10 parts per million or more of sulfites.

If I smoke, should I take more vitamin E and C?

A better plan is to quit smoking, but short of that, additional E and C may be a good idea. Cigarette smokers have more oxidative stress from various compounds in cigarettes.1 One reason is that smokers appear to use up antioxidant vitamins faster then nonsmokers. This was shown in a recent study where smokers had lower plasma levels of both vitamins E and C compared with nonsmokers. Additionally, a measure of oxidative stress, F(2alpha)-isoprostanes, was approximately 40 percent higher in the smokers compared with nonsmokers.2 All in all, it seems likely that smokers have increased vitamin E and C requirements compared with nonsmokers.3

I?ve heard so much about the glycemic index and diabetes. Is the GI associated with other health issues?

Dietary carbohydrates have different effects on blood sugar and insulin depending on the quality of carbs, as measured by the glycemic index, and the quantity and quality, as measured by the glycemic load. One important but sometimes overlooked area where GI/GL seems to have an effect is cancer. Studies show the risks for colon, endometrial, ovarian, breast and pancreatic cancers4,5,6,7,8 go up significantly with a high GI diet.

Also, in a recent study, researchers assessed more than 1,000 men diagnosed with prostate cancer and compared them with controls. After adjusting for variables that can potentially increase prostate cancer risk such as smoking, body mass index, physical activity and alcohol consumption, as well as those that can potentially decrease risk such as high intake of fiber and lycopene, they found a strong correlation between prostate cancer and increased GI and GL.9 This study adds to the growing evidence that GI and GL are important risk factors in a number of cancers.

1. Bruno, R.S., et al., Lower plasma {alpha}-carboxyethyl-hydroxychroman after deuterium-labeled {alpha}-tocopherol supplementation suggests decreased vitamin E metabolism in smokers. Am J Clin Nutr, 2005;81(5):1052-9.
2. Bruno, R.S., et al., {alpha}-Tocopherol disappearance is faster in cigarette smokers and is inversely related to their ascorbic acid status. Am J Clin Nutr, 2005;81(1):95-103.
3. Leonard, S.W., et al., Cigarette smoking increases human vitamin E requirements as estimated by plasma deuterium-labeled CEHC. Ann N Y Acad Sci, 2004;1031:357-60.
4. Higginbotham, S, et al., Dietary glycemic load and risk of colorectal cancer in the Women?s Health Study. J Natl Cancer Inst, 2004;96(3):229-33.
5. Brand-Miller, J.C., Glycemic load and chronic disease. Nutr Rev, 2003;61(5 Pt 2):S49-55.
6. Augustin, L.S., et al., Dietary glycemic index, glycemic load and ovarian cancer risk: a case-control study in Italy. Ann Oncol, 2003;14(1):78-84.
7. Michaud, D.S., et al., Dietary sugar, glycemic load, and pancreatic cancer risk in a prospective study. J Natl Cancer Inst, 2002;94(17):1293-300.
8. Franceschi, S., et al., Dietary glycemic load and colorectal cancer risk. Ann Oncol, 2001;12(2):173-8.
9. Augustin, L.S., et al., Glycemic index, glycemic load and risk of prostate cancer. Int J Cancer, 2004;112(3):446-50.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVI/number 9/p. 110

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