Fact Check: Drinking alcohol can impair immunity but it won't protect you against COVID-19

A message claiming that seven alcoholic drinks boost immunity and keeps us healthy has gone viral on social media...

By Satya Priya BN  Published on  17 April 2021 12:52 PM GMT
Drinking alcohol  COVID-19

Hyderabad: With COVID-19 cases on the rise, misinformation related to prevention and cure of coronavirus is also on the rise. A message claiming that seven alcoholic drinks boost immunity and keeps us healthy has gone viral on social media. According to the message, the drinks are recommended by Dr. Sushma Jaiswal.

The message states that while consuming alcohol in large quantities is harmful to the body, moderate drinking of "good and fine alcohol" a few times a week along with nutritious food is beneficial. It then recommends seven alcoholic drinks and lists their benefits.

According to the viral message, beer is loaded with antioxidants called phenols which protects us from heart diseases as it is good for blood circulation. "Beer (when consumed not more than a few bottles or cans) also lowers the risk of high blood pressure and helps in maintaining it," it reads.

Red wine helps generate "longevity genes" and increases good cholesterol and reduces bad cholesterol in the body while vodka when taken in moderate quantity helps clear bad breath. Vodka, the message claims, also helps reduce stress and disinfect external wounds. "It improves the health of the skin and stimulates hair growth on the scalp. Toothache is also another issue which Vodka can give relief," it states.

The message claims that whisky can be a cure for throat pain when it is used to gargle. It helps in weight loss and cures dementia, diabetes, and many types of cancer while also increasing the level of good cholesterol, it claims. "Whiskey is believed to be one of the healthiest drinks (when consumed in moderation) amongst all the alcoholic drinks," according to the message.

Meanwhile, a combination of gin and tonic can help treat malarial infection as it contains hydroxy chloroquinine which is also used to treat COVID-19, and brandy is rich in healthy antioxidants which have anti-ageing properties, the message claims. "Brandy helps in the treatment of bladder and ovarian cancer as well as sore throat and cough," it adds.

Rum increases the level of good cholesterol and guards people against osteoporosis and common cold, flu, and viruses.


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Fact Check:

The claim that the above mentioned seven alcoholic drinks can keep us healthy and boosts immunity is FALSE.

According to WHO, drinking alcohol does not protect you against COVID-19 and can be dangerous.


According to a document titled 'Alcohol and COVID-19: What you need to know', the most important point to remember is that in no way does consumption of alcohol protect people from COVID-19 or prevent them from being infected by it.

Ethyl alcohol (ethanol) is the substance in alcoholic beverages that is responsible for most of the harms that arise from their consumption, irrespective of whether it is consumed in the form of wine, beer, spirits or anything else.

It lists several general facts about the consumption of alcohol and health. "Alcohol has effects, both short-term and long-term, on almost every single organ of your body. Overall, the evidence suggests that there is no "safe limit" – in fact, the risk of damage to your health increases with each drink of alcohol consumed," the document states.

It further claims that heavy alcohol use weakens the immune system and reduces the ability to cope with infectious diseases. Alcohol, even when taken in very small quantities, is known to cause certain types of cancer. It also alters people's thoughts, judgement, decision-making, and behaviour, the document claims. It adds that alcohol, even in small amounts, is a risk to the unborn child at any time during pregnancy.

"Alcohol increases the risk, frequency and severity of perpetration of interpersonal violence such as intimate partner violence, sexual violence, youth violence, elder abuse, and violence against children. Alcohol increases the risk of death and injury from road traffic injuries, drowning and falls. Heavy use of alcohol increases the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), one of the most severe complications of COVID-19," it states.

The document also contains several myth busters about alcohol and COVID-19.

The nih.gov website states that while hand sanitizers contain 60-95 per cent ethyl alcohol that can help destroy the coronavirus on surfaces, drinking alcohol, including beverages with high percentages of alcohol, offers no protection from the virus. The concentration of alcohol in the blood after one standard drink is in the range of 0.01–0.03% (a blood alcohol level of 0.01–0.03 gm%), which is a tiny fraction of the concentration needed to produce an antiseptic action. Indeed, a blood alcohol concentration of 0.40% can be fatal.

Far from offering protection, alcohol misuse makes the body more susceptible to viral infections and can worsen the prognosis. Alcohol in the body at the time of exposure to a pathogen tends to impair the body's immediate immune response to the pathogen, making it easier for an infection to develop.

Longer-term, excessive alcohol consumption impairs immune cell functions in the lungs, making the body's immune response less effective. Excessive alcohol use also damages the cells that line the lung surface and this damage can go undetected until an infection occurs in the lungs. Alcohol misuse is also associated with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS).

In fact, individuals who misuse alcohol chronically are more likely to develop ARDS, more likely to need mechanical ventilation, have a prolonged stay in the intensive care unit, and have a higher risk of mortality from ARDS. All of these effects of alcohol misuse could certainly complicate COVID-19 prevention, treatment, and recovery.

According to an article on indianexpress.com, excessive drinkers have been seen to be vulnerable to, in particular, respiratory illness and pneumonia. They also take longer to recover from infection. In fact, excessive alcohol can also damage the lungs, which are one of the areas the novel coronavirus affects. Not just COVID-19, even those who have caught the common flu or a cold should avoid excessive alcohol consumption.

No matter what type, alcohol does not make us healthy or boost immunity. But consumption of alcohol impairs health and can end up weakening the body against coronavirus infection. Hence, the claim that seven alcoholic drinks can keep us healthy is FALSE.

Claim Review:Drinking alcohol can protect you against COVID-19
Claimed By:Social Media Users
Claim Reviewed By:Newsmeter
Claim Source:Social Media
Claim Fact Check:False
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