London: It takes just a single glass of wine to make some people ill, giving them a serious asthma attack, say experts.And it’s not the alcohol in the wine that’s causing the problem, but the sulphites.These additives are used in food and drink as preservatives and to prevent bacteria growth.It’s estimated that up to 10 per cent of people are sulphite sensitive, with reactions ranging from flushed skin and urticaria (nettle rash), to raised blood pressure, abdominal pain, nausea and diarrhoea. More serious reactions include asthma and, in rare cases, anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal.But many people may not realise sulphites are behind their symptoms.The highest levels of sulphites are found in dried fruit, wine, beer, cordial, convenience foods such as pizzas and oven chips, jam, some seafood products and processed meat.How sulphites cause a reaction is not quite clear, though it’s thought they form a gas in the mouth when they come into contact with saliva in some people, which causes the airways to tighten.Another theory is that some people can’t convert sulphites in the liver, due to a failure of or lack of the enzyme sulphite oxidase, which results in excessive levels of sulphite in the body.Up to one in ten of us may be sensitive or allergic to sulphites, according to research by Professor Hassan Vally from the School of Public Health and Human Biosciences in Melbourne.And asthmatics may be particularly prone, said Professor Vally.
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