If science says wine stops colds, why am I sick?

This has been a bad week for me in wine-drinking terms. It’s not that the wine I’ve drank has been bad; it’s that I’ve been stricken with such a severe cold for so long that I simply can’t bring myself to drink anything at all. And the times I have tried to enjoy a drink, I either couldn’t taste anything at all or it had the same aroma as paint thinner.

About a decade ago a Spanish study was reported to have found that drinking wine – particularly the red stuff – helped to prevent the common cold. The same conclusion was not drawn from drinking beer or spirits, interestingly enough.

Academics at five universities studied 4,000 volunteers and found that people who drank more than two glasses of wine a day had 44 per cent fewer colds than teetotallers.

From my perspective, I’m not convinced. I’ve been ill for the past week and I also had a cold last week. If wine is supposed to keep the rhinovirus at bay, I’m clearly not drinking enough of the stuff.

But there could be another factor at play here. Studies have found that athletic people are more susceptible to common illness than their more sedentary counterparts. This is particularly true among elite athletes, but a former colleague of mine who had been a pharmacist in the past asked me if I had a tendency to get sick a lot.

Why? Because I do a lot of cycling. And not just the sort of cycling that involves whizzing down to the supermarket and back, but the sort where I’m out pushing myself to my physical limit for anywhere between three and five hours each ride.

So it might just be that any disease-fighting good my love of wine provides is being eroded by my tendency to exhaust myself on the bike.

Or, as many people might say, this is all a bunch of bunk. Decide for yourself.

If I weren’t ill tonight, I’d probably be drinking something from Bordeaux.

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