Q: I'm susceptible to pneumonia. Is it safe for me to drink wine?—Gary, Fresno, Calif.
A: Pneumonia is a potentially life-threatening respiratory infection usually treatable with antibiotics. Chronic lung disease, diabetes, autoimmune disorders and cardiovascular disease can all potentially result in increased susceptibility to lung infections.
Moderate wine consumption, commonly recognized as two drinks per day for men and one for women, has been linked with reduced threat for some pneumonia risk factors, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and a 2003 study found that red wine and resveratrol were as effective as antibiotics at killing the Chlamydia pneumoniae bacteria responsible for many lung infections. More recently, a 15-year study of more than 44,000 men found that moderate wine drinkers were less likely to develop COPD, a respiratory illness.
However, excessive alcohol consumption exacerbates the risk of not just pneumonia but many other diseases.
"The excess consumption of alcohol can negatively impact various body functions, including suppressing your immune system's ability to fight off infections," said Dr. José Mayorga, executive medical director of U.C. Irvine Family Health Center. "Therefore, I caution wine enthusiasts to be mindful of these things and drink responsibly."
And not all studies have indicated that even moderate alcohol consumption is risk-free. According to a 2018 study published in BMJ Open, researchers found that pneumonia risk increased with each serving of alcohol consumed per day.
Anyone at increased risk for pneumonia should consult their personal physician about including wine as part of a healthy lifestyle.