Much has been said about the health benefits of red wine consumption, including the positive effect it can have on heart health. Now new research from Spain has shown that red wine can also help fight that most common of ailments, the cold.
A team of scientists from Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, the University of Santiago de Compostela and the University Hospital of the Canary Islands focused their studies on 4,272 men and women aged 21 to 69. The participants were all teachers at universities across Spain, and they were asked to keep diaries about cold symptoms over the period of one year.
According to lead researcher Dr Miguel A. Hernan, the research showed that men and women who drank more than 14 glasses of wine per week were 14 per cent less likely to catch a cold than the teetotalers. The men had 1.1 colds per year, while the women averaged 1.7 colds. Red wine was more effective than white, and other alcoholic beverages did not have the same effect, the researchers said.
"These results remained unaltered after adjustment for total alcohol intake and for other potential risk factors for common cold," Hernan wrote in the latest issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology. These other potential risk factors include exposure to children, smoking status, allergies and other diseases.
"Among those participants consuming both red and white wine, the association was even stronger among those consuming red wine exclusively. Because subjects with a high intake of wine were rare in the study population, our results were limited to light-to-moderate wine consumption," Hernan added.
The researchers stressed that they had not looked at why wine drinkers had fewer colds than teetotalers, and added that it could be due to other factors associated with wine drinking, such as a healthier lifestyle overall.
They did not rule out the possibility that the flavanoids found in wine were the reason for the reduced risk, since previous research had already shown that flavonoids can combat rhinoviruses, a major cause of colds. The flavanoids in wine are also what helps fight heart disease.
"This finding might explain an increased resistance to viral infection among wine drinkers, but the relevance of any of these or other mechanisms to the relation between wine consumption and common cold episodes remains to be established," Hernan said, stressing that further research was necessary.