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Drinking Cooking Sherry—Risks And Dangers

Dr. Ted Bender, Ph.D., LCDC

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Ted Bender, Ph.D., LCDC

April 25, 2019

Cooking sherry is high in sodium and has a similar alcohol content to wine. Drinking it can cause health issues like alcohol poisoning, heart disease, and stroke. It can also worsen or lead to alcohol addiction.

Cooking sherry, or cooking wine, contains 12 to 17 percent alcohol and is sold as a food item in the United States. This means that it is not regulated by the restrictions for alcoholic beverages, such as age limits or taxes.

Not intended for drinking, cooking sherry is not created with a pleasant taste that someone would expect in a beverage. It is high in salt content, which makes it useful for flavoring food, but is distasteful when drank straight.

Who Drinks Cooking Sherry?

Because there are no restrictions on purchasing cooking sherry, it may be abused by people who have a hard time obtaining alcohol from other sources. This includes teens, who do not have to be 21 to buy it, and homeless or low-income individuals, because of its low cost.

Cooking wine is inexpensive at around $2.50 per bottle. While some cheap wine can be purchased at this price, cooking wine can be paid for with food stamps, unlike alcoholic beverages.

Drinking Cooking Sherry—Risks And Dangers

Cooking sherry is not likely to be someone’s beverage of choice. The reason for drinking it can range from curiosity to abuse to addiction.

Teenagers may drink cooking sherry because they want to know what it’s like to drink alcohol but cannot easily obtain it. Some individuals drink cooking wine in desperation because they are severely addicted to alcohol and cannot afford to buy anything else.

No matter the reason for drinking it, there are many health risks associated with consuming large amounts of cooking sherry.

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Cooking Sherry And Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning is a condition that occurs when someone drinks too much alcohol in a short time frame. This can cause severe respiratory depression, changes in heart rate and body temperature, and high levels of toxicity, which can be fatal.

Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:

  • vomiting
  • seizures
  • confusion
  • slow or irregular breathing
  • bluish skin, lips, or fingernails
  • low body temperature
  • loss of consciousness
  • coma

High Sodium Intake From Cooking Wine

Some cooking wines are made with around 230 mg of sodium per two tablespoons of wine. If someone drinks a 13 oz bottle, they will consume much more than the recommended daily value of 2,300 mg of sodium.

Most Americans already consume more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day through their regular diet. Doubling that amount by drinking a bottle of cooking wine is likely to cause health problems, especially if a person drinks it often.

Health issues associated with high sodium intake include:

  • fluid buildup and swelling
  • high blood volume
  • high blood pressure
  • stiff blood vessels
  • heart attack
  • stroke
  • kidney damage

High sodium is especially risky for people who are diabetic, African American, over the age of 50, or who already have high blood pressure.

Cooking Sherry Can Cause High Blood Pressure

The alcohol content in 13 oz of cooking sherry is roughly equivalent to three glasses of wine. Mayo Clinic notes that three or more drinks can raise blood pressure temporarily, while drinking heavily and frequently can cause constant high blood pressure.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is the cause of many heart problems that can lead to death. Over time, it can damage arteries to the point where they are stiff and less efficient. This may result in an aneurysm—a bulge or burst in a blood vessel that causes internal bleeding—in the brain, heart, or kidney.

Blocked blood flow is a major problem associated with high blood pressure and weakened arteries, and can lead to:

  • heart disease
  • heart failure
  • stroke
  • dementia
  • kidney failure
  • fluid in the lungs (difficulty breathing)
  • damage to nerves or blood vessels in eyes

Addiction To Cooking Wine

Drinking cooking wine carries the same risk of addiction as drinking any type of alcohol. The more someone drinks, the more tolerant their body becomes to its effects, leading them to drink more for the same intoxicated feeling.

Over time, the body becomes physically dependent on alcohol and experiences withdrawal symptoms without it. Physical dependence often leads to addiction, or a mental craving for alcohol and continued use despite negative consequences.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Treatment for alcohol addiction typically begins with a medically supervised detox program. Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol can be life-threatening, so trying to detox alone is never recommended.

Medically supervised detox is an inpatient service that consists of close monitoring and medication. It ensures that a person is safe and stable as they rid their body of alcohol.

After detox, many people benefit from an inpatient rehab program that removes them from their usual environment, so they can focus on recovery. These programs generally involve individualized treatment plans that target specific areas of a person’s life that fuel their addiction.

Treatment may consist of behavioral therapy, art, recreation, nutritional support, and various other evidence-based therapies. Through inpatient care, many individuals learn to replace unhealthy thought and behavior patterns with a healthier, more fulfilling lifestyle.

Harvard School of Public Health: The Nutrition Source - Health Risks and Disease Related to Salt and Sodium

Mayo Clinic - Alcohol: Does it affect blood pressure?

Mayo Clinic - Alcohol Poisoning

Mayo Clinic - High blood pressure dangers: Hypertension’s effects on your body

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