Feel Like You’re Getting Sick? Have a Drink
It’s not every day that a team of researchers set up a study to let rhesus macaques drink as much as they’d like, but that is precisely what a group in Oregon just did. They were trying to determine what effect, if any, alcohol consumption has on immune resistance.
After dividing the monkeys into a control group which drank sugar water and a test group which was free to gorge on an alcoholic cocktail all day, the researchers studied how well each responded to a vaccine administered beforehand. It is important to note here that the drinking monkeys didn’t all drink the same amount; some indulged freely, while others were more reserved.
What happened next was somewhat unexpected:
After drinking for seven months, the macaques received another booster shot, and their reactions were remarkably different. The immune systems of the bad monkeys that drank too much failed to produce the antibodies the body usually makes in response to a vaccine. The moderate drinkers, on the other hand, demonstrated an enhanced immune response—better even than the teetotaling control group. The researchers can’t yet fully explain the results, but one possible explanation is that modest amounts of alcohol stimulate the immune system.
Of course there are plenty of other explanations as well, including the possibility that drinking sugar water all day is almost certainly terrible for your health, and the possibility that the monkeys which drank in moderation did so because they were already different in some fundamental way. Still, it is a suggestive result that squares with some other studies suggesting a glass or two of wine a day may have a similarly salutary effect on human health.
That said, the best way to avoid disease and colds remains unchanged. Get sleep, wash your hands and avoid excess stress. Just like always.