Beer delights

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Related tags: Coronary artery disease, Atherosclerosis, Artery

Good news for post-Christmas bingeing blues - a new study reveals
that moderate beer drinking could lower heart attack risk.
According to a group of Israeli researchers, a beer a day may help
keep heart attacks away.

Good news for post-Christmas bingeing blues - a new study reveals that moderate beer drinking could lower heart attack risk. According to a group of Israeli, researchers a beer a day may help keep heart attacks away.

In preliminary clinical studies of a group of men with coronary artery disease, the researchers showed that drinking one beer (12 ounces) a day for a month produced changes in blood chemistry that are associated with a reduced risk of heart attack.

Their study adds to growing evidence that moderate alcohol consumption may reduce the risk of heart disease. Their findings are due to appear in the 29 January 2003 print edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Heart-healthy changes observed in the blood of the test participants following beer-drinking include decreased cholesterol levels, increased antioxidants and reduced levels of fibrinogen, a clot-producing protein, claimed the researchers.

The study also showed that drinking alcoholic beverages causes structural changes in fibrinogen that make the clotting protein less active, said lead investigator Shela Gorinstein, a researcher with The Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel. Characterising these structural changes of fibrinogen may one day serve as a new diagnostic indicator of heart attack risk, along with known risk indicators such as blood cholesterol and antioxidant levels, she added.

Forty-eight (48) men, ages 46-72, with coronary artery disease were divided evenly into two groups. Individuals in one group drank the equivalent of 12 ounces (one standard can or bottle) of beer a day for 30 consecutive days, while the others drank mineral water. Both groups ate a similar diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, during this period.

In 21 of the 24 patients in the beer-drinking group, the researchers found positive changes in blood chemicals that are associated, on the basis of previous studies by Gorinstein and others, with a decreased heart attack risk. These changes include a decrease in "bad" cholesterol, an increase in "good" cholesterol, an increase in antioxidant levels, and a decrease in levels and activity of fibrinogen.

These changes, most likely produced by the relatively high polyphenol content of beer, were generally not seen in the blood of the non-beer-drinking group, the researchers report.

No heart attacks occurred among either patient group during the study period, they added. The patients are currently being monitored to evaluate long-term heart attack risk and survival rates, but results are not yet available.

Although the beer used in this study was a standard pale lager (5 per cent alcohol by volume), other beers are likely to have a similar effect, the researchers claim.

Both polyphenol and alcohol are thought to contribute to this heart-healthy effect of moderate drinking. Based on previous studies, it appears that polyphenols play the major role in this effect, while alcohol plays a lesser role, said Gorinstein.

The researchers warn that an association between moderate drinking and lowered heart disease risk does not necessarily mean that alcoholic beverages are the only cause. Some studies suggest that lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise, may help account for some of the association between lower heart disease risk and drinking.

Related topics: Science

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