Free radical is a term that has been thrown around more and more often in recent years. We have heard of the dangers that they can cause to our health, weakening our immune system and increased risk of heart disease and cancer. With these important factors to consider, the questions that you should ask yourself are: What are Free Radicals and How can I Avoid them?
Free radicals occur as a result of an atom or molecule with an unpaired electron as a part of its outer shell. Because electrons prefer to travel in pairs, these particles are highly reactive, the resulting imbalance on the molecular level inhibits proper cellular function. Free radicals will either steal an electron from a molecule or give it away. This can create a domino effect where imbalanced molecules continuously steal electrons from their neighbor, destroying the whole cell.
While some free radicals are naturally produced in the body, a balance is necessary for healthy living. If not balanced with antioxidants, too much exposure from external sources can be quite harmful. Free radicals can be found in the foods we eat, the beverages we drink, and the air we breath. Common sources besides sulfites in your wine include :
- Cigarette Smoke
- Industrial Chemicals
- Fried Food
- Red Meat
- UV Rays
Because of the electron imbalance resulting from too many free radicals in the body, oxidative stress occurs which can cause tissue and DNA to degrade. This is one of the most common theories relating to human aging, with free radicals breaking down living cells over time.
How Sulfites Create Free Radicals
Sulfur dioxide(SO2) is commonly used to increase shelf life of wine and food, preserve the way it looks, and reduce microbial activity during production. It is water soluble and readily converts into bisulfites and sulfites. As this conversion takes place, electrons are lost creating imbalanced particles, or free radicals. But there is a way to fight back against free radicals.
Sulfites and Wine Production
Sulfur additions to wine have been around for almost as long as winemaking itself. Indeed, writings by Homer and Pliny the Elder spoke of the importance of brimstone and sulfur in winemaking, noting how candles would be burned inside jars which would later hold wine. Beyond the importance of additions to increase shelf life, sulfur helps greatly reduce the risk of infected wine with off flavors as a result of microscopic biological activity.
The historical significance of sulfur in wine production cannot be understated. In 1487 Germany, royal decree dictated that sulfur additions were necessary by law for wine production.
Sulfites are also a natural byproduct of fermentation, created as yeast consumes sugar and converts it into alcohol. The level of sulfites created during fermentation is minimal compared to those added during winemaking processes. In the United States, the term “contains sulfites” is only required to appear on bottles with over 10 mg/liter of sulfites. That means that even if it is not on the bottle, they are still in the bottle.
Some areas of winemaking specialize in limiting the amount of sulfites that will be found in wine, while many modern practices have reduced the need for too potent of sulfur additions. For instance, appropriate controls on fungal infection through healthy soil maintenance, fungicide application, and controls on moisture in the vineyard causes healthier grapes to be grown which contain fewer microbes. This results in a lower density of sulfur application for the must before fermentation.
Biodynamic and organic viticulture and winemaking involve heavy restrictions on sulfur usage. The practices employed with these winemaking philosophies generally result in healthy soil with quality drainage and healthy activity by microscopic organisms. Particularly with biodynamic production, sulfur additions are kept incredibly low.
With so many health concerns pertaining to sulfites and free radicals, keeping an extra StiQit in your back pocket is an obvious and easy choice. Get the most out of your wine for your soul AND your body with our easy sulfite removal tool.