Food poisoning and alcohol are connected. “Alcohol with a meal can lower the risk of food poisoning” reported the New York Times.1 The evidence is that drinking alcoholic beverages with meals can either prevent food poisoning or reduce its effects.
Food poisoning appears to be much more common than most people realize. That’s because they often incorrectly attribute their symptoms to flu. More serious is the fact that food poisoning can be fatal.
Researchers analyzed an outbreak of gastroenteritis leading to diarrhea, vomiting and high fever among passengers on a cruise ship. The research showed that the drinking of alcohol by many of the passengers apparently prevented them from getting sick.2
A Spanish study examined an outbreak of acute salmonella gastric infection among people at a banquet. It found a strong link between alcohol and reduced food poisoning. The protective effect was strongest for those who had more than 40 grams of alcohol. Specifically, the attack rate was 95% for those who had not drunk alcohol. It was 78% for those who had drunk less than 40 grams. And it was 54% for those who had drunk more than 40 grams.3
A standard drink in the U.S. contains 14 grams of alcohol. Thus, three standard drinks would equal 42 grams of alcohol.
Researchers also studied an outbreak of illness caused by people eating oysters contaminated with shigella or salmonella. First, they controlling for potential confounders. Then they found a protective effect for beverages with an alcohol content over 10%. But none existed for beverages with less than 10% alcohol.4 Thus, the higher the alcohol level of the beverage, the more protective it was against food poisoning.
Laboratory research also shows the ability of alcohol to kill food poisoning bacteria.5
Drinking alcohol increases the acidic content of the stomach. This helps kill bacteria that cause food poisoning in the body.
“THE BOTTOM LINE: Alcohol with a meal can lower the risk of food poisoning.”6
Resources: Food Poisoning and Alcohol
- Conibear, H. The Wise Drinkers Guide. Alcohol, Health and Sensible Drinking. Your Qestions Answered. Bath: AIM, 2008.
- Edell, D. Eat, Drink & be Merry. NY: Quill, 2000.
- Ford, G. The Science of Healthy Drinking. San Francisco, CA: WAG, 2014.
- Brenner, H., et al. Relation of smoking and alcohol and coffee consumption to active Helicobacter pylori infection. Brit Med J, 1997, 315, 1489-1492.Brenner, H., et al. Alcohol as a gastric disinfectant. Epidem, 2001, 12(2), 209-214.
- Gao, L., et al. Alcohol Consumption and H. Pylori Infection. Ann Epidem, 2010, 20(2), 122-128.
- Gao, L., et al. Alcohol consumption and chronic atrophic gastritis. J Gastro Hepa, 2001, 15(3), 271-276.
- Kuepper-Nybelen, J., et al. Relationship between lifetime alcohol consumption and Helicobacter pylori infection, Ann Epidem, 2005, 15(8), 607-613.
- Marimón J. et al. Antibacterial activity of wine against Salmonella enteritidis. J Clin Gastro. 1998, 27(2), 179-80.
- Ogihara, A., et al. Relationship between Helicobacter pylori infection and smoking and drinking. J Gastero Hepa, 2000, 15(3), 271-276.
- Paunio, M., et al. Association of alcohol consumption and Helicobacter pylori infection. Euro J Epidem, 1994, 10(2), 1573-7284.
- Sheth, N. et al. Survival of enteric pathogens in common beverages. Am J Gastro. 1988, 83(6), 658-60.
- Sissons, C. et al. Inhibition by ethanol of the growth of biofilm. Arch Oral Biol. 1996 Jan;41(1):27-34.
- Zhang, L., et al. Relationship between alcohol consumption and active Helicobacter pylori infection. Alco Alco, 2010, 45(1), 89-94.
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