GAINESVILLE---Unlike many other alcoholic beverages, red wine does not suppress the immune system, according to preliminary studies at the University of Florida.
While red wine has been reported to aid in the prevention of coronary heart disease and some cancers, no one has studied whether its alcohol content might offset any benefits, said food science and human nutrition researcher Susan Percival.
So Percival, who specializes in nutrition and immunity, conducted a study to find out if red wine affects the immune system. Her research shows that the circulating white blood cells that fight infection are not helped -- or hurt -- by red wine.
"There's been a lot of publicity lately on the health benefits of red wine, but we also know that alcohol suppresses the immune system," said Percival, a researcher in UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. "So we wanted to find out whether red wine had a suppressive effect on immunity."
In the eight-week study, laboratory mice were divided into four groups of drinkers: teetotalers, who drank only water; wine drinkers, with one group getting cabernet sauvignon and the other getting muscadine wine; and ethanol drinkers, who received alcohol in concentrations equivalent to that in the wine.
The study was designed to replicate moderate alcohol consumption for people, so the mice were given the equivalent of two or three glasses, or servings, of wine or alcohol per day.
After the mice had established a drinking habit, Percival made the mice mildly ill to see how their immune systems would respond under the influence of alcohol.
The mice who were drinking ethanol experienced a suppressed immune response, while the mice who drank wine maintained normal immunity.
"We found that the animals that consumed straight ethanol had lower levels of
white blood cells than any other group," Percival said. "However, the same
amount of alcohol, consumed as red wine, resulted in no suppression of the
Contact: Susan Percival
University of Florida