Moderate Alcohol Consumption Found To Improve Vaccine Response
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redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
Don’t feel guilty if you choose to indulge in a glass of wine or two this holiday season. According to new research, appearing Tuesday in the journal Vaccine, you could be strengthening your immune system and helping your body fight off infections.
As part of the study, lead author Ilhem Messaoudi, an associate professor of biomedical sciences in the University of California, Riverside’s School of Medicine, and her colleagues trained a dozen rhesus macaques to self-administer alcohol.
Each creature was first vaccinated against small pox, then allowed to access either a four-percent ethanol solution or calorically-matched sugar water, based on whether they were part of the experimental or the control group. They also had free access to water as an alternative fluid, as well as a supply of food, the researchers noted.
The monkeys’ daily ethanol consumption was monitored over the course of a 14 month period, and they were vaccinated a second time halfway through the study period. Messaoudi’s team discovered that there was a distinct variation of daily ethanol intake over a nine-month period of self-administration.
“Like humans, rhesus macaques showed highly variable drinking behavior. Some animals drank large volumes of ethanol, while others drank in moderation,” stated Messaoudi, who collaborated on the paper with behavioral neuroscience professor Kathleen Grant.
Essentially, the macaques were divided into two different groups based on their ethanol consumption. The first group included animals that consumed a greater amount of alcohol, with blood ethanol concentration (BEC) levels exceeding the legal limit of 0.08 percent. This group was dubbed the “heavy drinkers.”
The second group included animals that consumed less alcohol. They averaged BEC levels between 0.02 percent and 0.04 percent, and were designated to be “moderate drinkers” by the investigative team.
“Prior to consuming alcohol, all the animals showed comparable responses to vaccination,” explained Messaoudi. “Following exposure to ethanol, however, the animals showed markedly different responses after receiving the booster vaccine.”
She and her associates discovered that the animals who consumed the greatest amount of ethanol demonstrated greatly diminished vaccine responses in comparison with the control group. However, animals that consumed moderate amounts of alcohol demonstrated signs of enhanced vaccine responses.
The results of the research could lead to an enhanced understanding of how the immune system works, and could also lead to breakthroughs in ways to improve our biological response to vaccines and infections, the researchers said. This could be especially beneficial in seniors, who receive virtually no benefits from influenza vaccines, and other vulnerable populations.
“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,” said Messaoudi. “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.”
“It has been known for a long time that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with lower mortality,” she added. “Our study, conducted on non-human primates, shows for the first time that voluntary moderate alcohol consumption boosts immune responses to vaccination.”
Messaoudi is quick to point out that she is not advocating people to turn to alcohol for immune system support if they have a personal or family history of alcohol abuse. However, she said that the average person would appear to benefit health-wise by having a glass of wine with dinner – especially when it comes to heart and immune health.