Q: My grandmother says that wine cures colds. Is she nuts? -John, New York, N.Y.
A: The common cold is an upper-respiratory illness caused by viruses. And the search for its cure has eluded scientists for centuries. However, on this one, grandma may be onto something. There are studies that suggest that polyphenols (chemical compounds with antioxidant properties like resveratrol) found in red wine show positive effects when used to reduce inflammation in upper-respiratory infections and boost the immune function to fight colds.
According to Prof. Helena Conibear, codirector of the International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research, there may be other factors at play too. She explains that research has yielded the possibility of a correlation between lower incidences of colds in those who drink wine due to a healthier lifestyle. She also goes on to say that "Previous research has suggested that flavonoids (antioxidants found in grape skins) have the ability to combat rhinoviruses (a major cause of colds) with the researchers speculating that this may have something to do with the drop in risk. The findings might explain an increased resistance to viral infection among wine drinkers too, but the relevance of any of these or other mechanisms to the relation between wine consumption and common cold episodes remains to be established."
If you happen to get a cold, don't treat wine or alcohol as medicine, nor as a cure. Please consult with your doctor to determine the best course of treatment. And once the cold is out of your system, raise a glass with your grandmother and toast to a healthy life.