Moderate alcohol consumption and the immune system: a review

Br J Nutr. 2007 Oct:98 Suppl 1:S111-5. doi: 10.1017/S0007114507838049.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / immunology*
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Flavonoids / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Immune System / drug effects*
  • Phenols / administration & dosage
  • Polyphenols
  • Sex Characteristics


  • Flavonoids
  • Phenols
  • Polyphenols
  • Ethanol