Wine Could Boost Your Immune System
Scientists from the University of Texas at Austin have uncovered evidence that the red-wine polyphenol, resveratrol, benefits the immune system. This study suggests red wine’s potential to enhance human immunity, particularly in relation to high-fat diets.
Resveratrol May Offset a High-Fat Diet
A high-fat diet affects the thymus—the organ that prepares T-cells, which regulate the immune system—preventing the thymus from releasing as many T-cells as it otherwise might. The thymus is most active during childhood, and its early activity determines its lifelong functionality. “Basically, you set your ability to fight infectious disease in your immune system at an early age,” said Christopher Jolly, associate professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences.
Jolly and his colleagues observed two groups of mice, feeding one group a high-fat diet, the other a low-fat diet. Within each group, the mice were subdivided into those receiving high and low doses of resveratrol. The high-fat subjects gained weight, but those given resveratrol showed increases in T-cells and lower thymic fat accumulation, in volumes that corresponded with the polyphenol dose they received.
In other words, “even if your diet sucks, is there something you could consume to offset those negative immune system effects of a high-fat diet?” Jolly asked. “Our study says, ‘Yes. It’s resveratrol.’” As is typical of resveratrol research, the doses administered were much higher than conceivably could be consumed through drinking wine. Nevertheless, Jolly believes that at low doses of the polyphenol— what one might ingest from a generous daily serving of red wine, berries and peanuts—“you may start to see some beneficial effects.”
Moderate Alcohol Consumption May Fight off Infections
Resveratrol may not be the only component of wine that boosts the immune system: New research from Oregon Health and Science University claims that pure ethanol—the alcohol in beverages—can improve one’s ability to fight off infections when consumed regularly in moderation.
The authors of the study, published in the journal Vaccine, inoculated a group of monkeys with a smallpox vaccine, assessing subjects’ responses by measuring their antibody counts. Then they let the monkeys drink. Each monkey had access to a 4 percent ethanol solution and could imbibe as he pleased. As with humans, some chose to drink heavily. A control group had access only to sugar water.
Seven months later, the researchers reinoculated the monkeys with the same vaccine. “The immune system has a type of memory, where if it sees what it’s been immunized against, it will mount an antibody response,” said Kathy Grant, a behavioral neuroscience professor at Oregon Health & Science University. The results were clear: “The moderate drinkers produced the most antibodies against the virus, in significantly greater volumes than those same monkeys had following their first exposure. “ The control group showed healthy responses, too; their antibody counts increased, though not as much as the moderate drinkers. The heavy drinkers’ immune systems responded with fewer antibodies.
“Most previous studies have shown that alcohol suppresses the immune system,” Grant told Wine Spectator. “We really didn’t expect that the moderate drinkers would have a much more robust response compared to the nondrinkers.”