Acute intake of moderate amounts of red wine or alcohol has no effect on the immune system of healthy men

Eur J Nutr. 2002 Dec;41(6):264-70. doi: 10.1007/s00394-002-0384-0.


Background: A recent prospective cohort study revealed that moderate wine consumption but not consumption of other alcoholic beverages is associated with a decreased risk of common cold. In contrast, wine constituents such as ethanol and polyphenols are known to suppress immunity.

Aim of the study: We investigated whether acute intake of a moderate amount of alcohol modulates immune functions in healthy men and whether polyphenols in red wine with antioxidative and immunomodulatory potential induce changes in immune functions that differ from those induced by the consumption of the 12 % ethanol.

Methods: Six healthy males with moderate alcohol consumption patterns randomly consumed a single dose of 500 ml of red wine (12 % ethanol), a 12 % ethanol dilution, dealcoholized red wine, and red grape juice, respectively. The following immune functions were measured before beverage consumption and 1, 3, and 24 h later: phagocytic activity and intensity of neutrophils and monocytes, production of tumor necrosis factor-alpha, interleukin-2, and interleukin-4, lymphocyte proliferation, and lytic activity of natural killer cells.

Results: Acute consumption of a moderate amount of red wine and of a 12 % ethanol solution had no effect on immune functions in men. Acute consumption of polyphenol-rich beverages (dealcoholized red wine and red grape juice) also did not affect immunity.

Conclusions: This study clearly shows that moderate consumption of alcohol at doses which inversely correlate with cardiovascular disease risk has no short-term effect on human immune cell functions. Acute intake of polyphenol-rich beverages such as red grape juice and dealcoholized red wine also does not affect immunity.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / immunology*
  • Beverages
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Flavonoids*
  • Humans
  • Immune System / drug effects*
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Male
  • Phagocytosis / drug effects
  • Phenols / administration & dosage*
  • Phenols / pharmacology
  • Polymers / administration & dosage*
  • Polymers / pharmacology
  • Polyphenols
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reference Values
  • Wine*


  • Cytokines
  • Flavonoids
  • Phenols
  • Polymers
  • Polyphenols
  • Ethanol