Beer Smarts

A report published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that people who consume anywhere from one drink a week up to 30 drinks a week performed better than nondrinkers on a battery of different tests designed to measure their intellectual ability. "Compared with abstainers, persons drinking one or two glasses of alcohol per day had a significantly lower risk of poor cognitive function," the authors wrote.

Subjects who drank alcohol occasionally, but who did not drink in the week prior to the tests, also performed better than nondrinkers, but they did not do as well as the people who drank regularly. "In terms of cognitive function, we found that frequent drinking may be more beneficial than drinking only on special occasions," the authors wrote.

It was not clear if the benefits were due to the alcohol itself, or if other factors may have had an impact on the volunteers' mental skills. The researchers noted that drinkers tended to earn more and have higher levels of education than nondrinkers. "Moderate consumption could be a proxy marker for good mental and physical health and for high socioeconomic position, both of which are related to good cognitive performance," the authors wrote. They added, "Alternatively, alcohol may have a causal effect via improved vascular function, which is itself associated with good cognitive ability in the general population."

Prior studies that examined whether alcohol consumption affects cerebral skills have yielded inconsistent results or dealt with elderly populations, according to the team, which was led by Michael Marmot, a professor of epidemiology and public health at the college.

In most of the tests, women performed better than their male counterparts in the same consumption categories; for instance, in the "inductive reasoning" test, women performed 10% to 30% better than men. The scientists think that this could be due to women choosing different types of alcohol than men do. Or they speculated that women might metabolize alcohol in a gender-specific way, based on differing stomach enzymes or body fat-to-water ratio, which may lead to a possible cognitive improvement

Beer Smarts! A report published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that people who consume anywhere from one drink a week up to 30 drinks a week performed better than nondrinkers on a battery of different tests designed to measure their intellectual ability. "Compared with abstainers, persons drinking one or two glasses of alcohol per day had a significantly lower risk of poor cognitive function," the authors wrote. Subjects who drank alcohol occasionally, but who did not drink in the week prior to the tests, also performed better than nondrinkers, but they did not do as well as the people who drank regularly. "In terms of cognitive function, we found that frequent drinking may be more beneficial than drinking only on special occasions," the authors wrote. It was not clear if the benefits were due to the alcohol itself, or if other factors may have had an impact on the volunteers' mental skills. The researchers noted that drinkers tended to earn more and have higher levels of education than nondrinkers. "Moderate consumption could be a proxy marker for good mental and physical health and for high socioeconomic position, both of which are related to good cognitive performance," the authors wrote. They added, "Alternatively, alcohol may have a causal effect via improved vascular function, which is itself associated with good cognitive ability in the general population."

Alcohol Stops Men Being A Flop In Bed

 Men might want to remember a new rhyme: a drink a day keeps erectile dysfunction away. Despite traditional views about the effects of booze on male performance, new research suggests that moderate drinking actually protects against impotence in the long term – perhaps for the same reason a glass or two of wine a day cuts the odds of suffering from heart disease. There is good evidence that excessive drinking can hinder sexual performance after a night out – a phenomenon sometimes called "brewer's droop". The effect has been noted for many years: "[Drink] provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance," Shakespeare reminds us in Macbeth. But over longer periods, moderate drinking doesn't seem to be linked to erectile dysfunction, says Kew-Kim Chew, an epidemiologist at the University of West Australia in Nedlands, whose team conducted an anonymous postal survey of 1770 West Australian men. After accounting for differences due to age, smoking and heart disease – all risk factors for ED – Chew and colleagues found that drinkers experienced rates of impotence 25% to 30% below those of teetotallers. The study did not examine how alcohol seems to protect against ED, but he thinks antioxidants in some kinds of alcohol play a role. Other studies suggest that both red and white wine protect against heart disease via a similar mechanism. One theory holds that ED and heart disease are both manifestations of the same disease. Indeed, Chew found that men who suffer from ED are more likely to go onto develop heart disease. Chew calls for further research on the connection between alcohol, impotence and heart disease. And he says his team's study should not give men a new reason to hit the bottle. "It would be socially irresponsible to say that even a binge drinker can get some benefits."

Journal reference: Journal of Sexual Medicine

Sugary Soft Drinks Raise Risk of Diabetes –Study CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. rates of diabetes have soared alongside soft drink consumption, and scientists said on Tuesday the spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels triggered by the sugary drinks may be at least partly to blame. Adult-onset diabetes, which afflicts 17 million Americans, is caused by the body either becoming resistant to insulin or not producing enough of it. "Rates of diabetes are skyrocketing. At the same time, over the last couple of decades, consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages has increased," said Meir Stampfer of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, one of the authors of a study examining the link. Between 1977 and 1997, U.S. soft drink consumption rose 61 percent among adults and more than doubled among children, the study said. The increased incidence of diabetes has also paralleled the growing obesity epidemic, the report said. As part of a study of 91,000 female nurses participating in the second phase of the Nurses Health Study, based at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, the Harvard researchers isolated the relationship between frequent soft drink consumption and diabetes. A total of 741 women developed diabetes during the 1991 to 1999 study period. "Women who were drinking sugar-sweetened soft drinks every day or more than once a day had an 80 percent increased risk of diabetes compared with women who hardly ever drank sugared sodas," Stampfer said.

Should be a warning lable on the soda!


No Clear Link Between Alcohol, Parkinson's: Study
By Linda Carroll

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - While some research suggests alcohol drinkers have a lower risk of Parkinson's disease than abstainers, a study out Thursday shows no clear association between drinking and Parkinson's -- though there was evidence moderate beer intake might offer some protection. But because no alcohol other than beer was tied to a lower Parkinson's risk, researchers suspect that a beer ingredient other than alcohol might bestow the benefit. When they broke the data down into different types of alcohol, though, people who drank moderate amounts of beer did show a 30-percent lower risk of Parkinson's. But, the authors write, "because this lower risk was not found among wine or liquor drinkers, it is possible that some components of beer, other than (alcohol), may reduce the risk of Parkinson's disease."
SOURCE: Annals of Neurology 2003;54.

Beer as a benefit for both body and soul

Beer has almost no fat and zero cholesterol. It can be less fattening than wine and RTDs, and contains less sugar and more dietary fibre, thanks to its barley content.

Malt is rich in vitamins and minerals, especially B6 and B12, and 500ml of beer meet about 30% of an average person’s daily need for vitamins. The presence of hops can provide beneficial sedative effects and their bitterness can aid digestion.

Moderate beer drinkers are less prone to stress and heart disease than may teetotalers and heavy drinkers.

Alcohol, consumed in moderate amounts, reduces fat deposits in blood vessel walls and also lowers cholesterol levels your blood, which can counteract cardiac diseases and stabilize your blood pressure.

And let’s not forget that beer is about 95% water. Its high water content, and relatively low alcohol content compared to wine and spirits, makes it good, thirst-quenching drink.

Beer’s ideal ionic composition also helps prevent gall and kidney stones. With all that water, it’s also a diuretic which can help keep the urinary tract open and prevent infection.

Beer also has traces of zinc, copper and iron which can help with prostate gland problems. And the hops in beer have been linked to helping prevent blood clots.


Drinking beer may strengthen bones By Karen Richardson. LONDON – Moderate beer consumption may help prevent osteoporosis in men and some women, according to two recent studies. The first, published recently in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, showed a strong relationship between the intake of dietary silicon and bone mineral density in the hip sites of men and premenopausal women. Beer is a significant and well-absorbed source of dietary silicon. "Silicon is an often overlooked nutrient in the body and may well be useful for maintaining strong bones," said Dr. Jonathan Powell, chairman of medicine and nutrition at the University of London and Cambridge, and lead author of the population-based study.Researchers did not find a relationship between silicon and bone strength in the postmenopausal women in the study, which included a total of 2,847 participants. "Unlike calcium, silicon potentially works on both sides of bone density—it appears to promote bone formation and may also prevent bone loss, whereas calcium plays a role in preventing bone loss, but unless we are deficient, does not help in bone formation." Previous studies have suggested a moderate consumption of alcohol may play a role in increasing bone mineral density, although the mechanisms are not known. The second study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, showed that beer is a highly bioavailable source of dietary silicon, where the silicon content varied from 9 mg/L to 30 mg/L.Researchers estimate that the average daily intake of silicon in the Western world is about 30 mg/day, and that silicon intake is lower in women than in men and decreases in both with age. Major sources of silicon have been found in plant-based foods, such as whole Moderate beer consumption may help prevent osteoporosis in men and some women, according to two studies. One, published recently in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, showed a strong relationship between the intake of dietary silicon and bone mineral density in the hip sites of men and premenopausal women. A second, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, showed that beer is a highly bioavailable source of dietary silicon, where the silicon content varied from 9 mg/L to 30


DRINK, MODERATELY, TO GOOD HEALTH. Doctors in the Netherlands have found that moderate drinking may boost levels of a hormone that is believed to help protect against artery disease. "People consuming alcohol in moderate amounts may have a healthier hormone status," Dr. Henk F.J. Hendriks at TNO Nutrition and Food Research. A separate report from Kaiser Permanente report shows that people who drink moderately report better health than people who don't drink at all - and the benefits are especially strong in women. "Women are more sensitive to alcohol," including the apparent benefits of moderate drinking, said Carla Green, a sociologist who conducted the study for Kaiser Permanente. Women tend toward body fat, while men tend toward body water, she said. That tends to boost the concentration of blood alcohol in women, compared with men, who can dilute that alcohol in the body's water.


Dark beers heart friendly

Wisconsin study finds flavonoids in dark beer have same benefits as red wine

Nov 12, 2003 - Dark beer offers some of the same heart-healthy benefits as chocolate and red wine, according too a new study. Guinness Stout had substantially more anti-clotting activity than Heineken, said John Folts, University of Wisconsin scientist. He presented his findings Tuesday at the American Heart Association annual meeting.

The beneficial effect comes from flavonoids in the beer. Flavonoids are anti-oxidant compounds that provide the dark color in many fruits and vegetables. There are hundreds of flavonoids in beer, Folts said.

Flavonoids also work to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol, which plays a role in causing atherosclerosis — known as hardening of the arteries. They also help arteries to dilate, which improves blood flow and blood pressure, he said.

Folts said a person would have to reach a blood alcohol level of 0.06 in order to get the optimal anti-clotting effect. He said that for the typical person, that would be accomplished by drinking two 12-ounce bottles.

As always, doctors offered a balanced warning that even though dark beer may have heart-healthy properties, it also has a downside that could negate any benefit: extra calories. Dark chocolate and red wine have similar properties, but they also provide extra calories, and obesity is a risk factor for heart disease.

Ronald Korthuis, a professor of physiology at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, said Folts' research bolsters epidemiological studies suggesting that alcoholic beverages can reduce heart attacks. "What is impressive about Dr. Folts' observations is that the flavonoids in dark beer produce anti-platelet effects that rival those of aspirin," Korthuis said.

Folts is working on development of flavonoid extracts that can be put in a capsule so people can get its health benefits without consuming alcohol or excessive amounts of sugar in grape juice. "All of this good stuff is in the seeds, skin and certain other parts of fermenting plants, which are left in dark beer for a longer period of time than in light beer," Folts says.

So more healthy flavonoids are in dark beer.


People Who Consume Alcohol A Few Times Each Week May Actually Miss Less Work.


NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Not only may moderate drinking promote heart health, new study findings from Finland have found that people who consume alcohol a few times each week may actually miss less work.

Modest drinking of any type of alcohol has been linked to better health, particularly cardiovascular health, and wine has stood out as especially beneficial. Some researchers speculate that certain properties of wine, such as its antioxidant content, may give the beverage an added benefit above and beyond its alcohol content. However, studies have also suggested that wine drinkers may just have healthier lifestyles overall.

The new findings suggest that moderate alcohol consumption may reduce health problems other than those associated with cardiovascular illness, the researchers report.

"We found that lifelong abstainers, former drinkers and heavy drinkers had higher rates of sick leaves than moderate drinkers," the study's lead author, Dr. Jussi Vahtera of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, told Reuters Health.

"The elevated risk in non-drinkers was not due to differences in lifestyle or psychological or social factors," the researcher added.

In the study, absence from work due to sickness was based on a physician's examination, explained Vahtera.

"Typically, abstainers have slightly higher mortality than moderate drinkers while heavy drinkers have a much higher rate than the former two groups," said Vahtera. "But no clear pattern was discovered in earlier studies on the relationship between alcohol intake and other health outcomes, such as sickness absence."

In the current investigation, the team of researchers evaluated the relationship between consumption of alcohol and the amount of sick leave a person took from their job. In all, the medical records of more than 6,000 men and women were reviewed.

The rate of medically certified sickness absence was 1.2 times higher for non-drinkers, former drinkers and heavy drinkers compared to lighter drinkers, the authors report in the November issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

"The high rate of sickness absences among heavy drinkers may be due to a greater incidence of alcohol-induced diseases, a more severe course of these or other diseases, poorer treatment or compliance to treatment, and inferior functional capacity due to excessive alcohol consumption," Vahtera noted.

"The higher rate of sickness absences among non-drinkers than among moderate drinkers may result from a lack of the protective effects of alcohol intake," the researcher added.

"Our findings suggest that light alcohol intake may reduce not only cardiovascular disease but also other health problems," Vahtera concluded.

SOURCE: American Journal of Epidemiology 2002;156:969-976.

Alcohol May Not Affect Memory over Long Term


Mon Oct 28, 5:32 PM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Enjoying a cocktail now and then is not associated with declining mental function over time and may even make women sharper, according to a new report.

"Findings from suggest that long-term social and habitual consumption of alcohol is not associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline in men and may even protect against cognitive decline in women," Constantine G. Lyketsos and colleagues from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, write.

Nearly 1,500 adults 18 and older were divided into five groups based on their self-reported alcohol consumption at three points during the nearly 12-year study. All completed a test to measure memory and other cognitive skills.

Group 1 was comprised of non-alcohol users. Adults in the second group were dubbed social or infrequent drinkers, and consumed no more than four drinks a day but did not drink daily and drank on fewer than 20 days a month.

The frequent or habitual drinkers in the third group had no more than four drinks a day but reported drinking on at least 20 days a month. Group four was comprised of heavy but infrequent users who had more than four drinks daily on fewer than 20 days, and adults in group 5 drank the same amount on at least 20 days a month.

All groups of adults experienced some decline over the years regardless of how much alcohol they consumed at any time, probably reflecting the inevitable effects of aging. But teetotalers, especially women, experienced greater declines in cognitive ability. Test scores were nearly 1 point lower overall among female nondrinkers compared with women who often drank heavily, for instance.

There was no difference among men, according to the report in a recent issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

It is not clear from the study why drinking would protect women's memories. The researchers suggest potential flaws in the study design, including the "survival bias" in which the least healthy individuals, including those with cognitive problems, die before the end of the study.

SOURCE: American Journal of Epidemiology 2002;156:747-752.

Alcohol Consumption = Clear Mind when Compared to Soft Drinks

Canadian researchers have found that alcohol may actually increase your capacity to make rational decisions. Psychologist Catherine Ortner said the findings "contradicted what our intuitive assumptions would be, because people think alcohol makes them more impulsive." The study Canada discovered that students who had been given alcoholic drinks showed better judgment than those on soft drinks. The researchers plan to use their findings to help develop more effective ways of communicating with pub and bar customers. For example, they hope to post clear messages on posters in pubs about drinking and driving, or practicing safe sex.


Study: Alcohol in Moderation May Help Brain

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Enjoying some wine with a meal may help protect the brain against the mental decline associated with aging, a new study from Italy suggests. However, too much alcohol can have the opposite effect.

``This study shows that among older persons, moderate alcohol intake protects from the development of cognitive impairment,'' said lead author Dr. Giuseppe Zuccala of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome.

``However,'' he cautioned in a statement, ``alcohol associated with an increased risk of cognitive dysfunction.''

Elderly Italians commonly drink wine, especially with meals, whereas they seldom drink other alcoholic beverages, Zuccala's team notes in the December issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

In the study, the researchers evaluated the mental abilities and alcohol use of 15,807 Italian men and women 65 years of age or older. They found that among the more than 8,700 regular drinkers, 19% showed signs of mental impairment-compared with 29% of the roughly 7,000 non-drinkers.

When the researchers considered other factors in mental decline such as age, education and other health conditions, moderate alcohol use was still associated with a lower risk of impairment.

However, while this risk was lower among those who drank moderately compared with teetotalers, heavier alcohol use was linked to a higher risk of decline.

The ways in which moderate drinking might protect the brain are unclear. The researchers suggest that it may be related to alcohol's effects on blood pressure, blood flow or perhaps on slowing the development of arterial disease.

``Identification of constituents in alcoholic beverages which are responsible for this and other beneficial effects could have important clinical and therapeutic implications, `` co-author Graziano Onder said in a statement.

SOURCE: Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 2001;25:1743-1748.

Better Arteries with a Drink-a-Day

People who have one drink a day - wine, beer or hard liquor - show significantly better elasticity of their body's arteries, an important measure of cardiovascular health, according to a new study. "We thought only red wine helps, but we found if people drink one beer or one unit of hard liquor a day, they also have improved arterial elasticity, better than nondrinkers," said Dr. Reuven Zimlichman of Wolfson Medical Center and Tel Aviv University in Israel. When arteries lose elasticity, they fail to relax as the heart pumps blood. This causes a rise in the systolic blood pressure, something Zimlichman calls a "terrible predictor" of future strokes, cardiovascular disease and heart attacks.


Alcohol v. Dementia

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center  stated that after studying 746 adults, half suffering from dementia, found that abstainers had odds of developing dementia that were twice as high as those who consumed 1 to 6 drinks per week.

USDA nutritional information for a typical 12-ounce serving of American made commercial beer:


Some imports and most homebrews have many times these amounts of  minerals and nutrients.

Soda 150 calories, no vitamins, no protein, very low mineral content.

A Drink a Day Cuts Heart Risk in Male Diabetics

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Men with type 2 diabetes who consume between one-half and two alcoholic drinks per day reduce their risk of heart disease, Harvard researchers report.

Dr. Mihaela Tanasescu from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues collected data on 2,419 diabetic men who participated in the Health Professionals' Follow-up Study. Altogether, 150 new cases of coronary artery disease were seen during the study's follow-up period, including 69 fatal and 81 non-fatal heart attacks.

Heart disease risk proved to be inversely associated with alcohol use. Compared with nondrinkers, men who consumed half a drink or less per day cut their heart disease risk by 24%, while those who drank one-half to two drinks daily cut their risk by 36%. And men who drank more than two drinks a day had a 41% lower risk of heart disease.

Beer, wine and liquor were all associated with lower heart disease risk.

The findings are consistent with those of past studies linking ``light to moderate alcohol intake'' to lower coronary artery disease risk in patients with type 2 diabetes, Tanasescu and colleagues note in their report in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology for December.

``Light-to-moderate drinking with meals may be an attractive and beneficial lifestyle component for the patient with diabetes. It remains for the clinician to decide whether to include alcohol recommendations as part of the treatment plan for type 2 diabetes. For most, the benefits would likely outweigh the risks,'' they conclude.

SOURCE: Journal of the American College of Cardiology 2001;38:1836-1842.

Drinking Can Help the Heart, but Carries Risks

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Many studies have shown moderate drinking may be good for the heart. Now two new reports suggest that some of the detrimental heart effects of too much alcohol may be less significant than thought.

In one study, Boston researchers found that drinking--even heavily--was not associated with an increased risk of heart failure, and in fact showed a protective effect. The second showed that patients with heart disease brought on by alcohol abuse could improve their heart function by cutting down on drinking instead of completely abstaining.

However, since heavy drinking has well-established health consequences such as liver disease, the researchers caution that their findings are not a green light for drinking to the heart's content.

In particular, they note that total abstinence should still be the goal for patients with alcohol-related heart disease.

Both reports are published in the February 5th issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Regular, heavy use of alcohol is associated with dysfunction in the heart's left ventricle, its main pumping chamber. Heart failure occurs when the heart can no longer pump efficiently enough to meet the body's demands, resulting in symptoms like fatigue and breathlessness upon relatively minor exertions. Because of the potential effects of drinking on the heart's pumping, it is possible that heavy alcohol use could raise the risk of heart failure.

On the other hand, moderate drinking appears to protect against artery disease and heart attack, which often lead to heart failure.

``Thus, the relation of alcohol consumption to the risk for congestive heart failure is probably complex,'' write Dr. Craig R. Walsh and his colleagues from the US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's Framingham Heart Study.

The Framingham Heart Study, begun in 1948, has followed the heart health of thousands of residents of Framingham, Massachusetts, and their children. In this analysis, Walsh's team looked at drinking habits and the development of heart failure among nearly 6,300 men and women who took part in the study.

The investigators found that male participants who reported any regular drinking were less likely to develop heart failure compared with men who had less than one drink per week. The risk was 59% lower among those who had roughly one or two drinks a day, even accounting for other risk factors such as smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure.

For women, there was some evidence that those who consumed three to seven drinks a week had a lower risk of heart failure than infrequent drinkers did. However, the researchers note, the difference was not significant.

Still, women who drank the most--eight or more drinks a week--had no increased risk of heart failure, according to the report. Nor did the nearly one quarter of men who had 15 or more drinks per week; their risk was actually lower than nondrinkers'.

The researchers speculate that this possible protective effect has to do with the ability of alcohol to raise blood levels of ``good'' HDL cholesterol.

However, they stress that these findings do not apply to people with heart failure, who should follow their doctors' advice on drinking. Moreover, they note, the amounts of alcohol deemed safe in this study have been shown to increase the odds of death from other illnesses.

The second study focused on a condition known as alcoholic cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle related to long-time, heavy drinking. Standard treatment involves abstaining from alcohol.

But for many patients, this goal is tough to meet, note Dr. Josep Maria Nicolas, of the University of Barcelona in Spain, and his colleagues.

The team studied 55 men with the condition to see whether cutting alcohol intake to more moderate levels would help patients' heart function. The investigators found that over 4 years, men who kept their drinking to one to four drinks per day showed heart-function improvements comparable to those of abstainers.

Before reducing their alcohol use, the men had, for at least the past 10 years, downed a minimum of 100 grams of alcohol per day--which translates to ten 12-ounce cans of beer or 10 shots of liquor.

While those who cut that to four or fewer drinks per day saw their condition improve, most who kept drinking heavily worsened. Ten of these men died.

But despite the benefits of curbing alcohol use in this study, Nicolas and colleagues stress that ``abstinence remains the cornerstone of any alcohol treatment program and continues to be recommended to all alcoholic patients with dilated cardiomyopathy.''

An editorial accompanying the reports echoes their authors' caution.

Both studies build on evidence that moderate drinking can protect the heart, according to Dr. Joshua Wynne of Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. But, he adds, exactly what to do with such information is ``problematic.''

``Are we really to encourage the use of moderate alcohol consumption, even though we are aware of its multiple (potential) deleterious effects?'' he writes. ``I think not.''

Alcohol can help prevent dementia

Alcohol can help prevent dementia
By Celia Hall, Medical Editor
(Filed: 25/01/2002)

PEOPLE who have between one and three alcoholic drinks a day can reduce their risk of dementia in later life by up to 70 per cent, according to Dutch researchers.

They found that light to moderate drinking reduced the risk of all types of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, by 42 per cent, and of dementia caused by restricted blood vessels by almost twice as much.

The study by Dr Monique Breteler, from the Erasmus University Medical School, Rotterdam, followed 8,000 people over the age of 55 for six years. In that time 146 developed Alzheimer's disease, 29 developed vascular dementia and 22 suffered other forms of dementia.

Dr Breteler says in the medical journal The Lancet today that the type of alcohol taken did not matter. "In recent years evidence has been accumulating that vascular factors may be involved in the cause of vascular dementia and Alzheimer's disease," she said.

Dr Richard Harvey, research director of the Alzheimer's Society, warned against drinking excessive amounts of alcohol but said: "This interesting study confirms the results of previous research which has suggested that light to moderate consumption is actually good for our health.

"It is very much the case that a little of what you fancy appears to do you good," he said.

The researchers say several mechanisms could explain the effect. Alcohol can reduce clumping of platelets in the blood and can alter the blood/ fat ratio.

Drinking a moderate amount of alcohol may also have an effect on the part of the brain involved with memory and learning.


Beer's health benefits get a nod

Barry Shlachter
Knight Ridder Newspapers
Oct. 23, 2002 12:00 AM

Can something as enjoyable and joy-provoking as beer actually be good for you?

In an age in which the medical establishment switches signals almost daily about what will kill you and what won't, would anyone believe that a daily glass of lager might prolong life?

For years, brewers have been trying to match claims that red wine can prevent heart attacks. Now, there's research showing that moderate consumption of beer - one longneck a day for women and two for men - is better than wine.

Nothing would make the industry happier, and in June, a national group of beer wholesalers presented professors from Harvard University and the University of Texas-Southwestern to journalists to publicize the favorable studies. Exposure in the Wall Street Journal and on CNN, NBC's Today show and CBS' Early Show followed.

Researchers stress that going beyond moderation, even slightly, causes the benefits to start decreasing and triggers other health problems.

Dr. Norman Kaplan, a hypertension specialist in Dallas who teaches at UT-Southwestern, has been reviewing the medical literature on the subject for years.

He insists "a little bit of alcohol, and beer specifically, is a good way to be healthy."

Kaplan says nobody has determined scientifically just what makes beer somewhat superior to wine.

There was evidence for the past 30 years that beer was beneficial. But none convinced Kaplan more than a study by Kaiser Permanente, published in a 1999 issue of the American Journal of Cardiology. It showed that moderate beer drinkers had fewer heart attacks than people who drank equivalent amounts of wine or whiskey, he said.

Unlike other research, it more carefully matched study participants so it wouldn't be skewed by, say, heavy-smoking beer-binge drinkers and wine drinkers who exercised regularly.


Folate in beer may help protect against heart disease

JULY 11, 2001 - Beer may provide the same "good for your heart" ingredients as fortified grains and green leafy vegetables.

"Folate from beer may ... contribute to the protective effect of alcohol consumption on cardiovascular disease in population(s) with generally low folate intake from other nutrients," according to to a study by Dr. O. Mayer Jr. and colleagues from Charles University in Pilsen, Czech Republic. Their conclusions were study published in the July issue of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition

The study measured blood levels of folate, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and vitamin B12 in 543 residents of Pilsen, an area with one of the highest rates of beer consumption in the world. The B vitamins they measured are linked to lower levels of homocysteine, a compound in the blood associated with increased heart disease risk.

"Moderate beer consumption may help to maintain the total homocysteine levels in the normal range due to high folate content," the report stated. The findings support earlier research showing that drinking beer regularly for 3 weeks led to a 30% increase in vitamin B6 levels. This vitamin is thought to help break down homocysteine. Drinking red wine or Dutch gin brought only about half that increase, research showed.

Good for your eyes and heart

New research touts health benefits of beer

DEC 17, 2000 - There's new research that antioxidants in beer can reduce the risk of cataracts and heart disease.

Researchers in Canada and the United States presented results at the 2000 International Chemical Congress of Pacific Basin Societies showing that beer, especially the darker ales and stouts, may reduce the incidence of atherosclerosis and cataracts by as much as 50%.

Darker beers have more antioxidants than the lighter lager beers, according to Canadian researchers John Trevithick, Ph.D., and Maurice Hirst, Ph.D., of the University of Western Ontario, and Joe Vinson, Ph.D., of the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. The Canadian team focused on determining why antioxidants in beer seem to help reduce the risk of cataracts, especially in diabetics. Vinson investigated beer's beneficial effect in reducing the risk of heart disease.

In tests with rat lenses, Trevithick's laboratory found that antioxidants that act similarly to those in beer protect special parts of cells in the eye - called mitochondria. Damaged mitochondria can lead to an increased incidence of cataracts.

At the University of Scranton, Vinson, a professor of chemistry, found that giving hamsters the human equivalent of two beers a day halved their rate of atherosclerosis. "This is a significant effect," he noted. "Beer has a fair amount of antioxidants compared to other beverages. There is a definite benefit from the antioxidants in the beer."

Drink up! Be smarter?

Japanese study finds moderate drinking good for brain

DEC 7, 2000 - A moderate amount of alcohol a day is good for the brain cells, according to a Japanese study that found moderate drinking can improve intelligence.

A team from the National Institute for Longevity Sciences tested the IQs of 2,000 people aged from 40 to 79. They found that on average men who drank moderately had an IQ 3.3 points higher than those who did not drink. Women drinkers scored 2.5 points higher than females who did not drink.

The Japanese scientists defined moderate drinking as less than 540ml of sake or wine a day. They said the type of alcohol did not influence the results. Volunteers drank beer, whisky, wine and sake.

The scientists also concluded that drinking alcohol excessively impaired intellectual ability. But the team said the findings had to be treated with caution. It might be that people who drank were brighter in the first place and the alcohol still impaired their intelligence, but not to the level of the teetotallers.

Hiroshi Shimokata, the chief researcher, said: "It's very difficult to show a cause-effect relationship. We screened subjects for factors such as income and education but there may be other factors such as lifestyle and nutritional intake."


Beer as brain food?

New study finds moderate drinking may slow mental decline of aging

SEPT 13, 2000 - The British Journal of Psychiatry reports research that shows that cutting blood pressure and drinking moderately, already shown to promote heart health, may also ward off the mental decline that comes with age.

Researchers found that those whose blood pressure dropped over time were less likely than others to see their mental abilities decline.

"I must say, this is good news," Dr. Jorge A. Cervilla said. Health in an interview. Some studies have linked uncontrolled high blood pressure to mental decline, and some have suggested moderate drinking protects the brain; however, Cervilla said, it has been unclear whether these associations hold over the long term. Subjects in his study had their mental functioning re-tested 9 to 12 years after their original tests.

While slowing or preventing mental decline has obvious benefits in and of itself, it also cuts the risk of developing Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, Cervilla said. Recently, other researchers presented findings at the World Alzheimer Congress 2000 meeting showing that a drink or two per day may cut the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

As with other studies, results were best for those who drank in moderation. "We're not saying you should get drunk every day," Cervilla said.


New study shows 1-2 pints a day can reduce risk of heart attacks

MAY 18, 2000 - A new study published in the British Medical Journal contends that drinking a pint of beer every day can reduce the risk of heart attacks.

A study of Czech men found that those who drank up to two pints of beer a day had the lowest risk of coronary heart disease. The men were chosen because they predominately drank beer and rarely drank wine or spirits.

Several scientific studies have shown that drinks like red wine can help reduce heart disease. But researchers have been unsure whether the effect is due to the chemical ethanol in alcoholic drinks, or ingredients in certain tipples, such as red wine or spirits.

Because this research by Dr. Martin Bobak of University College, London, was confined to men who only drank beers, it showed that the benefits of moderate drinking are related more to ethanol than to specific ingredients.

The lowest risk of heart disease was among men who drank daily and drank between four to nine liters (eight to 16 pints) of beer a week. Drinking large amounts of beer led to a loss of the protective results of alcohol.

Beer heart friendlier than wine

Vitamin B6 prevents buildup of chemical linked to heart disease

APR 28, 2000 - A new study indicates beer is better for your heart than red wine or liquor.

That's because beer contains vitamin B6, which prevents the buildup of an amino acid called homocysteine that has been linked to heart disease. Dutch researchers found that homocysteine levels did not increase after drinking beer, but rose nearly 10 percent after drinking wine and liquor.

"Such an increase in homocysteine coincides with a 10 to 20% increase in cardiovascular disease," said Dr. Henk Hendriks, who directed the study at the TNO Nutrition and Food Research Institute in Utrecht. Hendriks found that those who drank beer had a 30% increase in vitamin B6 in their blood plasma.

Hendriks said beer may have various benefits for the heart. Moderate consumption "affects many processes in the body, one of which is the significant increase in HDL cholesterol - the good cholesterol."

However, he added, "One should not drink alcohol to become healthy."

Alcohol may cut stroke risk

Light-moderate drinkers have 20% less risk than teetotalers

NOV 18, 1999 - A new study finds that an occasional drink may lower the risk of having a stroke. Numerous studies have shown that modest drinking reduces the risk of heart disease. But until now, the evidence of an effect on strokes has been less convincing.

The study, which appears in today's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, found that light to moderate drinkers can lower their risk by about 20% compared to teetotalers. It showed that as little as a single glass of wine or beer per week could significantly reduce stroke risk. The study involved more than 22,000 men. One of the researchers said the results could also apply to women.

The study found no added protection from stroke by drinking more than lightly or moderately. Researchers warned of liver damage, the dangers of driving while drunk and the risks to fetuses of drinking while pregnant.

The American Heart Association estimates that 600,000 people in the United States suffer a stroke each year. It is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., and the leading cause of serious, long-term disability.

Earlier studies were criticized because they simply compared drinkers to nondrinkers. This latest study examined varying levels of alcohol intake.

It found that between one drink a week and one a day reduces the risk, and the lesser amount was about as good as the higher one.

Researchers attribute alcohol's benefits to its ability to increase the amount of HDL, or good cholesterol, in the bloodstream. Researchers also say alcohol can break up blood clots.