Maybe it’s having a French wife that draws me irresistibly to a glass or two of a great, rich, lip-smacking red wine. But when I read how it can also help maintain your immune system, things just couldn’t get much better.
Like most of us in the current context, I’m more conscious than ever of staying healthy. When I feel my body needs a boost, a high dose vitamin drink is my go-to. But for pure pleasure a velvety smooth glass of good Bordeaux or Rioja is tough to beat. Because immune health is such a high-profile topic, and I am eager to find good news, I wanted to check out the reality behind the headlines.
The potential benefits are several but cause and effect is not always obvious - do healthier people drink red wine or culturally follow generally better diets for example, leading to connections with a longer life? A University of Florida study identified that, unlike many alcoholic beverages, red wine does not suppress the immune system. This is key, as protecting against and fighting back from illness is about harnessing the natural power of your immune system. It’s a complex system and the important thing is to provide the optimum environment for it to do its thing, especially if you are starting to feel unwell.
OK, so it’s clearly not a license to go Chianti crazy but if etiquette says I shouldn’t drink it from a straw, no harm clutching at one or two is there? In fact, Pinot Noir seems to be the ultimate choice due to its high levels of resveratrol, a polyphenol (which for added delight is also found in chocolate) with the property to combat inflammation and its link to lower risks of cancer and stroke. As with all nutrients, like those found in vitamin drinks like Tonic Health, what matters is how much is absorbed into the bloodstream. Alberto Bartelli at the University of Milan has claimed that before we absorb compounds in wine, they must be dissolved. They help others absorbed, they all work together, and this is unique to wine.
Everything in moderation is something my parents often advocated. The Mayo Clinic identified that alcohol generally, does negatively impact the immune system by altering the makeup of your gut microbiome affecting the ability of microorganisms to support it and making it easier for pathogens to cross into your bloodstream. Heavy drinking undoubtedly has negative effects on our body, dramatically increasing risk of heart attacks, strokes and liver disorders for example. Binge drinking has been shown to reduce white blood cells, further exposing your system to infection.
So, I guess it’s business as usual for me. I’ll keep exercising, get plenty of sleep and eat a balanced diet as much as possible. And to help avoid excess stress I’ll continue to enjoy an occasional glass or two of my fave tipple without too much guilt.
Alcohol Journal May 2015
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida 1999
Holly Van Hare, March 12, 2018
Jessica Brown, 22nd October 2019