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Infectious Disease

Alcohol may help boost your immune system, study finds

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 (Reuters)

You know alcohol in hand sanitizer can ward off germs, but what if it's served in a martini glass? Surprisingly, drinking in moderation may boost your immune system, according to a new animal study published in the journal Vaccine.

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Granted, this research was done on rhesus macaques monkeys, but the findings should apply to humans, too, since they have similar immune systems, say the study authors. The study looked at 12 rhesus macaques that were trained to drink alcohol. Then they gave all the monkeys a smallpox vaccination and divided them into two groups—one that had access to alcohol and one that had access to sugar water. Just like people, some monkeys drank more than others when it was available. Then the monkeys received a second vaccination seven months later and were followed for another seven months.

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When they were first vaccinated, all the monkeys showed similar responses to the vaccine. But their reaction to the second vaccination was different. The heavy drinkers (with an average blood alcohol concentration of over 0.08 percent) had diminished vaccine responses compared to the monkeys who didn't drink at all. But here's the real shocker: The moderate drinkers (with an average blood alcohol concentration of 0.02 to 0.04 percent) had enhanced vaccine responses compared to the control group. Apparently, a few drinks may have helped amp up their immune systems.

So what does this mean for people? While the researchers don't encourage you to take up drinking just for immune system benefits, they do stress that a glass of wine a few times a week may actually bolster your health. That said, you might want to skip that calorie-packed frozen daiquiri and order something a little more waistline-friendly.

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