British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Moderate alcohol consumption and the immune system: A review

Javier Romeoa1 c1, Julia Wärnberga1, Esther Novaa1, Ligia E. Díaza1, Sonia Gómez-Martineza1 and Ascensión Marcosa1

a1 Immunonutrition Research Group, Department of Metabolism and Nutrition, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (CSIC), Madrid, Spain

Abstract

Increasing evidence suggests that light to moderate amounts of polyphenol-rich alcoholic beverages like wine or beer could have health benefits. Scientists have long debated the effects of alcohol on immune function, showing on the one hand, that high doses of alcohol consumption can directly suppress a wide range of immune responses, and that alcohol abuse is associated with an increased incidence of a number of infectious diseases. On the other hand, moderate alcohol consumption seems to have a beneficial impact on the immune system compared to alcohol abuse or abstinence. Therefore, the link between alcohol consumption, immune response, as well as infectious and inflammatory processes remains not completely understood. With this in mind, it is important to realise that other factors, unrelated or indirectly related to immune function, like drinking patterns, beverage type, amount of alcohol, or gender differences, will affect the influence that alcohol consumption may have on the immune system. This review summarises published data describing the effects that light to moderate amounts of polyphenol-rich beverages like wine or beer seem to have on immunity in healthy adults.

Correspondence:

c1 Corresponding author: Dr. Javier Romeo Marín, fax +34 915493627, email jromeo@if.csic.es