- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 14, 2010

LONDON (AP) - Does it matter what you drink with that cheese fondue?

The Swiss would say absolutely!

Debate has raged for decades in Switzerland over the perfect fondue beverage. Some insist white wine is the best option because the alcohol supposedly breaks down the gruyere cheese. But others say only tea _ with no milk or sugar _ is appropriate.

Researchers in Switzerland and Germany set out to find out which drink provides better digestion of that fatty cheese.

The research was published Wednesday in the medical journal BMJ.

In a small study _ partly funded by Coop Foods and Etter Kirsch _ experts fed 20 healthy men and women aged 23 to 58 a cheese fondue with either Fendant de Valais white wine and kirsch or black tea.

In the experiment, people who drank tea digested the fondue in about six hours, compared to nine hours for those who had wine and kirsch. Experts found no difference in symptoms like heartburn, nausea or indigestion among the groups.

Mark Fox, an associate professor and consultant gastroenterologist at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham who led the research, said the findings apply to any high-calorie, high-fat meal, like traditional Christmas feasts. Fatty foods take longer to be broken down in the stomach compared to other foods and adding alcohol complicates the process, he said.

Fox, who is half-Swiss, says he always has white wine with his fondue. “Contrary to popular belief, wine unfortunately does not dissolve the fat in fondue,” he said, adding there is too much fat for alcohol to make a dent. In an MRI image of a fondue-eater, experts saw a massive lump of cheese Fox and colleagues described as a “cheese baby.”

Robert Heading, a retired professor of gastroenterology at the University of Edinburgh, warned that people with digestive problems like acid reflux might worsen their condition by drinking alcohol. He was not linked to the research.

Still, Heading said most healthy people could enjoy some wine guilt-free over the holidays. “This is not an invitation to down a bottle of wine,” he said. “But the idea of some Christmas wine sounds good to me and is probably OK for most people.”




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