Many of us enjoy a drink or two to celebrate the festive season. And now, researchers say the odd glass of wine with dinner may actually benefit our health - as new research suggests it can boost the immune system and improve its response to vaccination.
This is according to findings published in the journal Vaccine.
The study researchers, led by Ilhem Messaoudi of the School of Medicine at the University of California, Riverside, say their research may help lead to a better understanding of how the immune system works, and how to improve its ability to respond to vaccines and infections.
To reach their findings, the researchers trained 12 monkeys (rhesus macaques) to consume alcohol freely.
Prior to this, the monkeys were vaccinated against smallpox. One group of the monkeys was then allowed access to either 4% alcohol, while the other group had access to sugar water. All monkeys also had access to normal water and food.
The monkeys were then monitored for a 14-month period and were vaccinated again 7 months into the experiment.
During this time, the investigators found that the monkeys’ voluntary alcohol intake varied, just as it does in humans. This led the investigators to divide them into two groups.
The first group consisted of monkeys that were “heavy drinkers” - defined as having a blood ethanol concentration (BEC) more than 0.08%. The second group was deemed “moderate drinkers,” with a BEC of between 0.02-0.04%.
Moderate alcohol consumption ‘enhanced vaccine response’
The researchers found that before the monkeys had free access to alcohol, they all demonstrated comparable responses to the vaccinations. But after alcohol consumption, they all showed different vaccine responses.
The monkeys classed as heavy drinkers showed diminished responses to the vaccine, compared with the monkeys that consumed sugar water. But the investigators were surprised to find that the monkeys deemed as moderate drinkers demonstrated an enhanced vaccine response.