Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Moderate alcohol consumption boosts body's immune system, study suggests

Date:
December 17, 2013
Source:
Oregon Health & Science University
Summary:
Medical science has known for years that people who drink moderate amounts of alcohol actually have a reduced risk of death. Now, new research adds a fascinating twist: moderate drinking may actually bolster our immune system and help it fight off infection.

New research from Oregon Health & Science University suggests that moderate drinking may actually bolster our immune system and help it fight off infection.
Credit: Subbotina Anna / Fotolia

Medical science has known for years that people who drink moderate amounts of alcohol actually have a reduced risk of death. In general, they are healthier and have better cardiovascular function that those who don't drink alcohol at all.

Related Articles


Now, new research from Oregon Health & Science University adds a fascinating twist: moderate drinking may actually bolster our immune system and help it fight off infection.

The research, published Dec. 17 in the journal Vaccine, not only opens a new window into scientific understanding of the immune system, it also could help scientists find new ways to improve the human body's ability to respond to vaccines and infections.

The scientists did their research in rhesus macaques, which have an immune system very similar to humans. To conduct the study, the researchers trained a group of 12 rhesus macaques to consume alcohol -- a 4 percent ethanol mixture -- of their own accord.

Researchers vaccinated the monkeys against small pox as part of the study. They then separated the animals into two groups -- those with access to the 4 percent ethanol and those with access to sugar water. All of the animals had regular access to pure water, and to food.

The researchers then monitored the animals' daily ethanol consumption for 14 months. And the animals were vaccinated again, seven months after the experiment began.

"Like humans, rhesus macaques showed highly variable drinking behavior," said Ilhem Messaoudi, the lead author of the paper, a former assistant professor at the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute at OHSU and assistant scientist in the Division of Pathobiology and Immunology at the Oregon National Primate Research Center and now an associate professor of biomedical sciences at the University of California, Riverside. "Some animals drank large volumes of ethanol, while others drank in moderation."

The monkeys' voluntary ethanol consumption segregated them into two groups. One group was made up of heavy drinkers, those that had an average blood ethanol concentration greater than 0.08 percent -- the legal limit for humans to be able to drive a vehicle. The other group was made up of moderate drinkers, with an average blood ethanol concentration of 0.02 to 0.04 percent.

Prior to consuming the alcohol, all of the animals showed comparable responses to the vaccination. But after exposure to the alcohol, the two groups of monkeys responded in very different ways to the vaccination.

The heavy drinkers showed greatly diminished vaccine responses compared with the control group of monkeys who drank the sugar water. But the more surprising finding: the moderate-drinking monkeys displayed enhanced responses to the vaccine compared to the control group. Moderate drinking bolstered their bodies' immune systems.

"It seems that some of the benefits that we know of from moderate drinking might be related in some way to our immune system being boosted by that alcohol consumption," said Kathy Grant, Ph.D., senior author on the paper, a professor of behavioral neuroscience at OHSU and a senior scientist at the ONPRC.

The researchers stressed that excessive alcohol consumption was injurious to the monkeys' immune systems -- just as excessive alcohol consumption is bad for human bodies in many ways.

"If you have a family history of alcohol abuse, or are at risk, or have been an abuser in the past, we are not recommending you go out and drink to improve your immune system," Messaoudi said. "But for the average person who has, say, a glass of wine with dinner, it does seem in general to improve health and cardiovascular function. And now we can add the immune system to that list."

The next steps for the researchers will be to better understand why the immune system reacts as it does to moderate alcohol. That may lead to a pharmaceutical alternative that could provide the same benefits as the moderate alcohol consumption.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Oregon Health & Science University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. I. Messaoudi, M. Asquith, F. Engelmann, B. Park, M. Brown, A. Rau, J. Shaw, K.A. Grant. Moderate alcohol consumption enhances vaccine-induced responses in rhesus macaques. Vaccine, 2013; 32 (1): 54 DOI: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2013.10.076

Cite This Page:

Oregon Health & Science University. "Moderate alcohol consumption boosts body's immune system, study suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 December 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131217171008.htm>.
Oregon Health & Science University. (2013, December 17). Moderate alcohol consumption boosts body's immune system, study suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131217171008.htm
Oregon Health & Science University. "Moderate alcohol consumption boosts body's immune system, study suggests." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131217171008.htm (accessed November 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, November 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

WFP: Ebola Risks Heightened Among Women Throughout Africa

WFP: Ebola Risks Heightened Among Women Throughout Africa

AFP (Nov. 21, 2014) Having children has always been a frightening prospect in Sierra Leone, the world's most dangerous place to give birth, but Ebola has presented an alarming new threat for expectant mothers. Duration: 00:37 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola: Life Without School in Guinea

Ebola: Life Without School in Guinea

AFP (Nov. 21, 2014) Following the closure of schools and universities in Guinea because of the Ebola virus, students look for temporary work or gather in makeshift classrooms to catch up on their syllabus. Duration: 02:14 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins