Evidence about the health benefits of moderate drinking is mounting, with new research showing that beer is just as good for you as red wine.
A University of New England (UNE) study has revealed that beer has the same positive effect as red wine in reducing cholesterol and preventing cell death in the body.
Professor Ken Watson, of the UNE's School of Biological, Biomedical and Molecular Sciences, observed the effect of drinking on antioxidant levels in the blood.
"There are two effects of moderate drinking," he said. "There is alcohol, which lowers bad cholesterol and increases good cholesterol, and there's a second effect which is the antioxidants in the drink itself.
"In that respect the beer is as good as red wine," he added.
Antioxidants in wine, known as polyphenolics, are contained in the seeds and skins of grapes and are concentrated during fermentation.
They act by "mopping up" or "scavenging" free radicals, destructive forms of oxygen that damage DNA and can lead to premature ageing and cell death. Professor Watson and his all-male team conducted their research by drinking beer, red wine and white wine during a series of two hour sessions.
Blood samples were taken at regular intervals.
Antioxidant levels in the blood increased after drinking red wine and beer, but less so after drinking white wine, Watson found.
"With the support of our work, the myth that red wine is a more effective source of antioxidants than beer is losing ground," he said.
"The scientific evidence that moderate drinking has health benefits is now overwhelming."
But this did not mean the more you drank the higher your antioxidant levels were, Watson said. He said there was no further increase in the protective effect after two standard drinks.
He added there was no need for teetotallers to take up drinking to reap the benefits of antioxidants, which were also present to a lesser degree in grape juice.
"This isn't saying that if you are a non-drinker or teetotaller that you should be drinking," he said. "Obviously, one isn't saying that. What one is saying is if you are a moderate drinker the news is excellent, but moderation is the key."
Moderate drinking is defined as two standard drinks per day for men and one to two for women.
Professor Watson now hopes to repeat the study using women.