Page last updated: Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Alcohol and the common cold
A Spanish researcher Dr, M.A Hernan, of Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Mass., and his colleagues from the University of Santiago de Compostela and the University Hospital of the Canary Islands have found that those who consume a few glasses of wine every day are less likely than teetotallers to come down with a cold.

Over a 12 month period the researches followed 4,272 male and female teachers, aged 21-69 at 5 universities. Daily diaries about cold symptoms, including runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, headache, chills, sore throat cough and cold were kept by the teachers. The research reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology, revealed that men and women who drank more than 14 glasses each week had a 40% reduction in colds compared with people who did not drink. The association was stronger for red wine and the same findings were not true for people consuming other alcoholic beverages. On average the men in the group had 1.1 colds per person per year during the 12 month period, while women averaged 1.7 colds per person per year. Even after adjustment for total alcohol intake and for other potential risk factors for common cold and other risk factors for catching a cold, such as exposure to children, smoking status, allergies and other diseases the results remained unaltered. The association was found to be stronger for those consuming red wine. The results were limited to light -to- moderate wine consumption.

As the study did not examine why wine drinkers had fewer colds, it is possible that other factors associated with wine drinking -possibly a healthier overall lifestyle could explain the link. Previous research has suggested that flavonoids (antioxidants found in grape skins) have the ability to combat rhinoviruses (a major cause of colds) with the researchers speculating that this may have something to do with the drop in risk. The findings might explain an increased resistance to viral infection among wine drinkers, but the relevance of any of theses or other mechanisms to the relation between wine consumption and common cold episodes remains to be established.

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