Moderate alcohol consumption helps boost immunity, says study

12/18/2013 10:10:00 AM
Vicky Boyd

wine glassCourtesy WikimediaA glass of wine a day can help keep the doctor away.

A research group, led by a University of California, Riverside, immunologist, found that moderate alcohol consumption, such as a daily glass of wine, can boost the immune system, potentially helping people fight infections.

The knowledge could be used to improve reactions to vaccines and infections, according to a news release.

For example, even though elderly patients may receive a flu vaccine, it remains relatively ineffective.

Scientists already have found that moderate alcohol consumption has been associated with lower mortality.

Using a dozen rhesus monkeys, the research group studied the effects of alcohol consumption on the immune system.

The monkeys were trained to consume alcohol when they wanted.

The researchers initially vaccinated the animals against small pox. The test group was provided access to either 4 percent ethanol, which has a similar proof to beer, while the control group had access to calorically matched sugar water. Both groups also had access to plain water.

The researchers monitored the animals for 14 months. At month seven, they vaccinated the animals again.

During nine months of the animals' self-administered alcohol consumption, daily intake varied widely.

Before consuming alcohol, all of the monkeys' responses to vaccination were similar.

Following alcohol consumption the groups showed markedly different responses after receiving the second, or booster, vaccine.

Similar to human counterparts, monkeys that drank the largest amounts of alcohol had greatly diminished vaccine responses compared to the control group.

But those that drank moderate amounts of alcohol had enhanced vaccine responses.

“These surprising findings indicate that some of the beneficial effects of moderate amounts of alcohol consumption may be manifested through boosting the body’s immune system,” Ilhem Messaoudi, an associate professor of biomedical sciences and lead author, said in the release.

“This supports what has been widely believed for some time: moderate ethanol consumption results in a reduction in all causes of mortality, especially cardiovascular disease. As for excessive alcohol consumption, our study shows that it has a significant negative impact on health.”

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Gordon Illan    
Silicon Valley  |  December, 18, 2013 at 12:03 PM

Is this research peer-reviewed or sponsored by the industry? Don't know. So how do we give ourselves the benefit of the doubt? I stopped drinking three years ago and my health and immunity are at their best compared to the 40+ "moderate drinking" years. No flu, no cold... Can't say the same about some of my friends who drink regularly. Should you take my example? No. Test it for yourself. Stop drinking for one year and see how that alters your health and immunity. One thing is for sure; when we drink, we end up eating more than when we don't drink. Is drinking even in moderation affecting the body's ability to give feedback? Is that good or bad? I know for sure regular exercise, foods rich in micronutrients, a positive attitude, compassion, hard work, honesty, good music, a hobby that we love, yoga, meditation, loving friends and family members... they all contribute to our physical and mental health, in a good way. Not long ago, there was a report that said "drinking is good for us irrespective of how much we drink." Compared to that report, which was clearly sponsored by the industry, I trust this one. But the ultimate research is when the researcher and the subject are one and the same, YOU. Because a generalized research can't take into account all the factors that matter to you.

Malcolm Kyle    
United States  |  December, 21, 2013 at 09:21 AM

Alcohol, when used alone, is "involved" in far more emergency department visits than every illegal drug combined. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control): "In the single year 2005, there were more than 1.6 million hospitalizations and more than 4 million emergency room visits for alcohol-related conditions." A study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine in 2012 suggests that as many as 50 percent of emergency room visits could be alcohol-related. In New York City for instance, nearly 74,000 people visited hospitals in 2009 for alcohol-related reasons, compared with just 22,000 in 2003.

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