Wine-Searcher recently shared a conversation with Taiwanese oncologist, Dr Mien-Chie Hung who said that tannin in wine could have a positive effect in the treatment of COVID-19.
Hung, who is also president of China Medical University in Taiwan, joined in the conversation after it was confirmed that anosmia and parosmia, a loss of smell and scent confusion, is a common symptom and after effect of COVID-19. Of course, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that alcoholic products should not be used to treat or alleviate the symptoms of COVID-19.
But, now, based on research initially done to find a treatment and cure for SARS (also a coronavirus) back in 2003, Hung says the tannin in wine could have a positive effect in the treatment of COVID-19. However, the research is incomplete and there is no conclusive evidence that throwing back a few glasses of wine could ease or treat the symptoms of COVID-19.
“SARS occurred about a half year, and then totally disappeared [back in 2003],” Hung told Wine-Searcher. “All the research stopped. Nobody wanted to do it anymore. We thought tannin might have some impact on SARS but the research is incomplete.”
Hung said that researchers worked with pure tannic acid when doing their research. But tannic acid is only a part of the tannins of wine and it is unknown if all tannins will have the same effect on coronaviruses.
“Tannin is rich in the red wine because it is also rich in grapes,” Hung said. “However, tannic acid is not equivalent to tannin. When we do research it is very difficult to use a mixture. What we use is pure compound, and that is tannic acid. That belongs to the tannin family. Red wine and different fruits, they have tannins in the tannin family.
“Most of the time when people analyze red wine, they analyze tannin. However, at this moment what we know scientifically is that tannic acid has the ability to inhibit COVID-19. But will the whole tannin family do that? We don’t know. We have a small group of scientists studying tannin, the whole group. But while working on that, when you have a mixture together, it becomes very complicated.”
Hung said that normally research like this would proceed at an academic pace. But he said wine companies contacted him and urged him to research wine, and he believes it is university social responsibility to do so.
He was also prepared to answer the logical question: How much red wine would you have to drink to get the positive effect?
Hung pointed out several assumptions one needs to make: That all tannins work; that the wine drinker has an average metabolic rate because some people can absorb 100% of the tannins in wine into their cells, but others might absorb only 10%.
But he did give an estimate: “Based on the human body, based on research, in order for us to drink enough wine to have tannin concentration to reach [inhibitory effect], it would have to be about one liter.”
Of course, others say that outside the strict environment of Dr Hung’s research facility; alcohol has been found to do more harm than good in the global fight against COVID-19.
“Consuming alcohol will not destroy the virus, and its consumption is likely to increase health risks if a person becomes infected with the virus. Alcohol (at a concentration of at least 60% by volume) works as a disinfectant on your skin, but it has no such effect within your system when ingested,” writes the WHO.