Are you worried about the sulfites in wine? Concern about sulfites and anemia stems from the fact that extremely high
sulfite concentrations result in the formation of Heinz bodies. Heinz bodies are
small pockets of denatured or nonfunctional hemoglobin on the surface of red
cells. Anemia can result from the formation of large number of Heinz bodies. The
concentration of sulfites required for Heinz body formation is several thousand
times higher than the amount of sulfites available in a diet. Some sulfites
occur naturally in beer and wine and some are added as preservatives of color
and appearance. For most people, sulfites, even in large quantities, are not
harmful. This has led the FDA to list sulfites on their GRAS (Generally Regarded
As Safe) list. Therefore, it is unlikely that the sulfites contained in one
glass of wine per day would have any adverse effects on anemia.
Some people do report headaches from the sulfites, though.
One should be aware that sulfites are frequently added to prepare foods such
as salad bars and other foods at restaurants. It is likely that a restaurant meal will contain two to several times as much sulfites as a glass of beer or
wine. One should also know that some people are hypersensitive to sulfites and
should limit all exposures to sulfites.
For additional reading:
Bryson, P.D., "Sulfites and MSG," in Comprehensive Review in
Toxicology, 2nd Edition, Chapter 50, Aspen Publishers, Inc., Rockville, MD,
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