Moderate Alcohol Drinking May Have An Upside

2013-12-20 11:48

Drinking in moderation may not actually be a bad thing. Research has shown that moderate drinking may boost the body's immune system. This is good news for people who enjoy a social drink now and than or who may even enjoy a light drink or two at the end of each day to help them unwind. However, it is imperative to always keep in mind that drinking too much and drinking and driving are never good for anyone.

In a study on rhesus macaques it was found that moderate alcohol consumption enhances vaccine-induced responses, reports the journal Vaccine on Dec. 17, 2013. However, chronic alcohol intoxication was found to suppress this response. Basically, the researchers found that in a rhesus macaque model of ethanol self-administration the immune response serum profile was lowered with heavy drinking, but increased with moderate drinking.

It has been known for years that people who drink moderate amounts of alcohol actually have a lowered risk of death, according to Oregon Health and Science University. Overall, people who drink moderate amounts of alcohol are healthier and have better cardiovascular function than people who abstain from drinking any alcohol at all. New research from Oregon Health & Science University has now shown that moderate alcohol drinking may also actually bolster our immune system and therefore help it fight off infection. Drinking alcohol in moderation has also been found to be linked to lower risk of depression, writes ThebloggingExpert reporter Teresa Tanoos.

This new research at Oregon Health and Science University opens up new horizons into understanding exactly how the immune system works while helping scientists discover new ways to improve the human body's ability to respond to vaccines and infections. These scientists did their research in rhesus macaques, which have been found to have an immune system which is very similar to humans. To do this study the researchers trained 12 rhesus macaques to consume alcohol, which was a 4 percent ethanol mixture, of their own free will.

The researchers vaccinated the monkeys against small pox as a part of their study. The monkeys were than separated into two groups, those who had access to the 4 percent ethanol and those monkeys with access to sugar water. There was regular access to pure water and food for all of the monkeys. The animals' daily ethanol consumption was monitored for 14 months by the researchers. Than, seven months after the experiment began, the monkeys were vaccinated again.

Ilhem Messaoudi, the lead author of the paper, said, “Like humans, rhesus macaques showed highly variable drinking behavior." In this study some of the monkeys drank large amounts of ethanol, while others drank in moderation. There was segregation of the monkeys into two groups based on their voluntary ethanol consumption. One of the groups of monkeys was made up of heavy drinkers, which included those monkeys that had an average blood ethanol concentration which was greater than 0.08 percent. This is the legal limit for people to be able to drive a vehicle. The other group of monkeys was made up of moderate drinkers, which was an average blood ethanol concentration of somewhere 0.02 to 0.04 percent.

The monkeys all showed similar responses to the vaccination prior to drinking the alcohol. However, after exposure to the alcohol, the two groups of monkeys were observed to respond in very different ways to the vaccination. The monkeys who were heavy drinkers displayed greatly diminished vaccine responses in comparison with the control group of monkeys who drank the sugar water. However, a more interesting finding was that the moderate-drinking monkeys displayed enhanced responses to the vaccine in comparison to the control group. Moderate drinking bolstered the immune systems of the monkeys.