'COLD COMFORT' FOUND IN WINE
It is estimated that in the UK, the common cold is responsible for more than 7 million ‘sick’ days lost each year. However, recent research carried out in Spain may have us reaching for the Cabernet rather than the medicine cabinet.
In a recent year-long study, led by Dr Bahi Takkouche, Spanish researchers found that wine drinkers, especially red wine, are less likely to catch the common cold than teetotallers, beer drinkers and spirits drinkers
"The strength of the association increases with the amount of wine, but people who drink one glass a day also had a lower incidence of colds," says Dr. Miguel A. Hernan, a lecturer in the department of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and a co-author of the study.
The researchers recruited more than 4000 faculty members and administrative staff at five Spanish universities and asked them to complete questionnaires about their drinking habits, medical history and other lifestyle variables. Every 10 weeks, the individuals transcribed their daily notes, in which they recorded if they had any of eight defined symptoms, and sent them to the researchers. Over the course of the study some 1350 participants developed at least one cold.
"We were amazed at how strong these protective effects appeared to be," said Dr. Bahi Takkouche, professor of preventive medicine at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
The researchers have already found stress is a strong risk factor for colds, and that vitamin C and zinc have no preventive effect. Other factors such as vitamin intake, smoking and proximity to small children are yet to be the subject of similar studies.
"Apparently total alcohol intake did not have any effect, but wine consumption and red wine consumption had strong effects, so the logical conclusion is that apparently the effect is not due to alcohol but to other components," Takkouche says. In fact the research showed that, compared to teetotallers, men and women who drank two glasses of wine per day enjoyed a 40% lower risk of developing a cold. This reduction rose to 60% for those that stuck exclusively to red wine.
One explanation is that resveratrol, a component of wine with a strong anti-inflammatory effect, is responsible. Another explanation attributes the effect to the antiviral properties of the flavonoids found in red wine. Wine may also have an effect on immune response.
For further information, please contact Frank Caddy 028 90 422349 and/or visit http://aje.oupjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/155/9/853