Drinking Boosts Your Immune System, Science Says So

by Joelle Wisler

Moderate drinking helps boost immune systems and fight infection. A study done in 2013 at the Oregon Health and Science University says that this is true. It’s science, people.

Oh, thank god.

The study worked with rhesus macaque monkeys, who share similar immune systems to humans, and “like humans, show highly variable drinking behavior.” So I take this as, some rhesus macaque monkeys enjoy the occasional sip of chardonnay with their creme brûlée, and then others are like Aunt Dolores with a six-pack of Miller High Life at Thanksgiving dinner. Some like to have a margarita with their nachos on the weekend, and some like to swim in vats of Jägermeister and wake up by the railroad track. Some are having lively evolutionary discussions while indulging in a couple of martinis, and some are hiding vodka in water bottles and drinking when they think the scientists aren’t watching. You get the picture.

The scientists injected the monkeys with smallpox (which seems a bit aggressive to me?) and then vaccinated them to see how their immune systems would respond to the vaccine. There was a control group and a drinking group and they let them go for it. I’m not going to celebrate or condemn animal research here so just step away from the keyboard.

First off, the monkeys who were pounding down shots of pure ethanol, singing bad karaoke, making bad mating choices, and then crying themselves to sleep (aka the heavy drinkers) showed a diminished response to the vaccine compared to the sober monkeys. So, put down the Maker’s Mark and that microphone, you lush.

But the moderate drinkers — the real heroes of this tale — the monkeys who were simply celebrating their victories with the occasional cocktail or tipping back the wine bottle after the little baby rhesus monkeys went to bed, showed an improved immune response to the vaccine. This was compared to the teetotalers sitting in the corner drinking sugar water and not having any fun.

What I took away from this study is this:

1. There are good people out there doing good work for humanity.

2. I had to google, “How do you define moderate drinking?” after reading this, and we just won’t talk about the week after November 8.

3. How the hell did I only hear about this study three years after it was published in Vaccine magazine?

4. How does someone know when a monkey is drunk? Aren’t they already swinging from chandeliers and throwing poop at each other? Can monkeys curse and say lewd things? Were the drunk monkeys’ partners mad after they came home? Can you tell if a monkey is drunk without a blood test? I have so many questions.

5. I think I underestimated how fun it could have been to become a scientist.

6. Did they get those heavy-drinking monkeys into some kind of treatment program? I’m worried about them.

7. I can go to sleep tonight with a little less guilt about having a glass of wine while binge-watching Shameless.

We could all use some good news out in the world. Being able to safely and appropriately use alcohol and know that just maybe you’ll be able to fight that common cold a little more effectively seems like good news. You’re welcome and cheers.