A recent study suggests that moderate beer drinking may reduce cardiovascular risk.
Beer is a popular alcoholic beverage produced by the fermentation of sugars derived from starch-based materials. Barley (malt), hops, water and yeast are the major constituents of beer. Studies suggest that moderate alcohol-consuming beer drinkers have lower levels of C-reactive protein, fibrinogen, plasma viscosity and white blood cell counts than non-beer drinkers. Further research is required before conclusions can be made.
In a new study, 17 healthy men were assigned to consume three different beverage combinations at least one week apart. The first study treatment involved drinking 400 milliliters of beer plus 400 milliliters of water, the second included 800 milliliters of de-alcoholized beer, and the third included 67 milliliters of vodka plus 733 milliliters of water. Various cardiovascular measurements were taken with each treatment, including aortic stiffness, pressure wave reflections and aortic and brachial pressure, and endothelial function.
The researchers found that endothelial function significantly improved only after drinking beer, at an average of 1.33 percent, while aortic stiffness improved after all three drinks. Additionally, wave reflections reductions were significantly higher after drinking beer when compared to the de-alcoholized beer.
The authors concluded that beer may improve cardiovascular function in healthy individuals, noting that the benefits appear to be caused by a combination of the antioxidant and alcohol content in beer. Further research is warranted.
In addition to beer, resveratrol, a natural compound that is found in more than 70 plant species as well as in red wine, is thought to play a role in preventing heart disease. Early studies examined the use of a combination therapy that included resveratrol for heart disease risk, but the effect of resveratrol alone cannot be determined from these. A patented product (Stilvid®) containing resveratrol-enriched grape extract was found to offer some beneficial effects on heart disease risk factors. In other research, resveratrol improved heart function in healthy, exercising people. More studies are needed.
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