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Proc Nutr Soc. 2010 Aug;69(3):341-6. doi: 10.1017/S0029665110001904. Epub 2010 Jul 2.

Drinking pattern and socio-cultural aspects on immune response: an overview.

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Immunonutrition Research Group, Department of Metabolism and Nutrition, Institute of Food Science, Technology and Nutrition (ICTAN), Instituto del Frío, Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), Madrid, Spain.


Social acceptance of drinking involves social and cultural roles and has important implications for public health. Since extensive evidence indicates that alcohol possesses immunomodulatory properties, scientists have recently debated the influence of alcohol consumption on the immune response, particularly in countries where drinking in a social setting is a part of cultural identity. Experimental and clinical data support the conclusion that alcohol is a potent immunomodulator. While high alcohol consumption suppresses a wide range of immune responses, leading to an increased incidence of a number of infectious diseases, moderate alcohol consumption may have a beneficial impact on the immune system, compared to alcohol abuse or abstinence, most likely due to the multiple components of polyphenol-rich alcoholic contributing to the protective effect seen for moderate alcohol consumption on CVD and the immune system. Despite this, the scientific literature appears to be concerned about the diseases associated with excessive drinking in some societies and cultures. Thus, the present review recognizes the importance to consider social and cultural aspects of drinking when examining the whole dimension of alcohol consumption (amount, beverage type, frequency and variability), in order to estimate global risk of consequences on host defence to better understand alcohol-related harm or benefit.

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