Wine Drinkers Less Likely to Catch Common Cold, Research Finds

Spanish study shows that moderate wine drinkers are half as likely as nondrinkers to come down with sniffles and sneezing.
May 15, 2002

Taking a bottle of red wine out of the cellar and putting it in the medicine cabinet may not be a bad idea come cold-and-flu season. A recent study conducted by a team of Spanish researchers found that wine drinkers are less likely to catch the common cold than teetotalers, beer drinkers and spirits drinkers.

"We found that drinking 14 glasses of wine per week, two a day, is a strong preventative against colds," said lead researcher Dr. Bahi Takkouche, professor of epidemiology at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. "This effect is even stronger with red wine," he added. However, the benefits were not seen with other alcoholic beverages.

The study, called "The Intake of Wine, Beer and Spirits and the Risk of the Common Cold," was published in the May 1 edition of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The research, which ran from October 1998 to September 1999, looked at 4,287 faculty and staff members at five universities in Spain's Galicia region and the Canary Islands. Every 10 weeks during that 12-month period, the participants, who ranged from 21 to 69 years old, filled out questionnaires regarding their drinking habits, smoking patterns and other medical and lifestyle factors.

The scientists excluded those with a history of allergies or asthma and those who already had a cold when the study began. The remaining 4,272 were asked to rate their symptoms, such as a running nose, sneezing, congestion, cough, chills and headaches on a scale of zero (no symptoms) to three (intense symptoms).

During the course of the study, the researchers diagnosed 1,353 cases of the common cold. The participants who drank eight to 14 glasses of wine a week were half as likely to show cold symptoms as nondrinkers, beer drinkers or spirits drinkers. Those who consumed one to seven glasses of wine weekly were roughly a third as likely to catch a cold. Drinkers who had more than 14 glasses per week also showed a reduction in symptoms, but the scientists said few participants consumed this much and therefore those results were imprecise.

The researchers found an even lower rate of colds among those who drank only red wine; however, they cautioned that "very few subjects drank red wine exclusively but did not drink any white wine. … Therefore, it was not possible to conduct a meaningful analysis of this group."

Beer and spirits drinkers were also looked at separately. "They showed no special protection from getting colds," said Takkouche. "The only protective effect was among wine drinkers; therefore it is probably due to the preventive effects of nonalcoholic compounds in wine."

According to their authors, their "results did not materially change after further adjustment for smoking, contact with children, psychological stress, vitamin C and zinc intake, university, and geographic location."

The researchers theorized that known anti-inflammatory compounds found in wine, such as resveratrol, could provide protection from the common cold, or flavonoids such as quercetin and catechin could be responsible. "If it is resveratrol, then will we get the same benefit by drinking grape juice, which has high concentrations of the compound?" mused Takkouche.

He added that the study is meant as "food for thought" and that the common cold is typically benign, where "alcohol drinking is associated with major risk factors," such as cirrhosis and violence. "I would never recommend to someone to start drinking or change drinking patterns," he said.

However, the study noted that the common cold results in a loss of 30 million work days per year in the United States and that preventive measures would help alleviate medical costs incurred for treatment.

# # #

For a comprehensive look at the potential health benefits of drinking wine, check out senior editor Per-Henrik Mansson's feature Eat Well, Drink Wisely, Live Longer: The Science Behind a Healthy Life With Wine

Read other reports about the potential health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption:

  • April 15, 2002
    Study Sheds New Light on How Red Wine May Help Fight Cancer

  • Jan. 31, 2002
    Moderate Drinking May Be Good for the Brain, Not Just the Heart, New Study Finds

  • Jan. 31, 2002
    Wine-drinking May Reduce Risk of Dementia in Elderly, Italian Study Finds

  • Jan. 21, 2002
    English Scientists Claim to Crack French Paradox

  • Dec. 31, 2001
    New Study Sheds More Light on Antioxidants in Red Wine

  • Dec. 13, 2001
    Moderate Drinking Does Not Reduce Chance of Becoming Pregnant, Research Finds

  • Nov. 27, 2001
    Moderate Drinking Can Slow Hardening of Arteries, New Research Shows

  • Nov. 6, 2001
    Study Examines Drinking's Effect on Brain Health in Elderly

  • April 25, 2001
    Chemical Compound Found in Red Wine May Lead to Treatment for Prostate Cancer

  • Jan. 9, 2001
    Wine Consumption Linked to Lower Risk of Strokes in Women, Finds CDC Study

  • Sept. 30, 2000
    Wine May Have More Health Benefits Than Beer and Liquor

  • Aug. 7, 2000
    Moderate Alcohol Consumption May Reduce Women's Risk of Heart Disease, New Study Shows

  • July 25, 2000
    Harvard Study Examines the Role of Moderate Consumption in Women's Diets

  • June 30, 2000
    Scientists Uncover Why Resveratrol May Help Prevent Cancer

  • May 31, 2000
    Moderate Consumption Still Part of Healthy Diet

  • May 22, 2000
    Moderate Drinking May Lower Men's Risk of Diabetes, Study Finds

  • May 17, 2000
    European Study Links Wine Drinking to Lower Risk of Brain Deterioration in Elderly

  • May 12, 2000
    Wine May Increase Bone Mass in Elderly Women, Study Finds

  • Feb. 4, 2000
    Dietary Guidelines Committee Revises Recommendations on Alcohol

  • Dec. 17, 1999
    Moderate Drinking Can Cut Heart Attacks by 25 Percent

  • Nov. 25, 1999
    Study Finds Moderate Drinking Cuts Risk of Common Strokes

  • Nov. 10, 1999
    Study Points to Potential Benefits of Alcohol for Heart Patients

  • Jan. 26, 1999
    Moderate Alcohol Consumption Cuts Risk of Stroke for Elderly

  • Jan. 19, 1999
    Light Drinkers Face No Added Risk of Breast Cancer

  • Jan. 5, 1999
    New Studies Link Wine and Health Benefits

  • Oct. 31, 1998
    Here's to Your Health: Is it now "medically correct" for a physician to prescribe a little wine to lower the risk of heart disease?
  • News

    You Might Also Like

    Anthony Barton, Legendary Bordeaux Winery Owner, Dies at 91

    Anthony Barton, Legendary Bordeaux Winery Owner, Dies at 91

    A dashing figure for decades in the wine trade, he raised Châteaus Léoville-Barton and …

    Jan 19, 2022
    Is a Cure for Hangovers Finally Here? More Evidence Needed

    Is a Cure for Hangovers Finally Here? More Evidence Needed

    A team of researchers graded studies of remedies that could make you feel less wooly after …

    Jan 18, 2022
    Wine Spectator Looks to the Future

    Wine Spectator Looks to the Future

    Expanded duties for veteran editors and welcome to a new senior editor

    Jan 18, 2022
    Instagram Live Chats: View Wine Spectator's Upcoming Schedule

    Instagram Live Chats: View Wine Spectator's Upcoming Schedule

    Our next two episodes feature Demeine Estates president Philana Bouvier and Elizabeth …

    Jan 20, 2022
    Exclusive: Joel Gott Wines Buys Napa's Historic Edge Hill Winery

    Exclusive: Joel Gott Wines Buys Napa's Historic Edge Hill Winery

    Gott plans to make a small-production red blend from the St. Helena property revitalized by …

    Jan 14, 2022
    Wine To Go Could Come Back in New York

    Wine To Go Could Come Back in New York

    Gov. Kathy Hochul has proposed permanently legalizing takeout drinks. Restaurants see …

    Jan 13, 2022