UK: Beer 'May Be Good For You'

By | 28 April 2000

A pint of beer may help protect against heart disease more effectively than red wine or spirits, researchers have found.

While the health benefits of red wine have long been touted by scientists, a letter in medical journal The Lancet suggests that the odd pint may also be a good idea.

Beer contains vitamin B6 which prevents the build up in the body of a chemical called homocysteine - thought to be linked to an increase in the risk of heart disease.

However, Dutch researchers have discovered that this may not be the only reason why beer may be good for the heart.

Dr Henk Hendriks and colleagues from the TNO Nutrition and Food Research Institute, studied 111 healthy men who each drank beer, red wine, spirits, and water, for three weeks, with dinner.

They found that homocysteine levels did not increase after beer consumption, but rose after drinking wine and spirits.

Beer drinkers had a 30% increase of vitamin B6 in blood plasma.

Levels of B6 also rose in people who had drunk wine and spirits, although not by the same amount.

Dr Hendriks' team suggests that beer may contain other ingredients that help protect against heart disease.

Dr Hendriks told BBC News Online: "Moderate alcohol consumption affects many processes in the body, one of which is the significant increase in HDL cholesterol - the good cholesterol.

"However, one should not drink alcohol to become healthy."

Andrew Varley, of the Institute of Alcohol Studies, warned against people using the research as an excuse to drink more beer.

He said: "Any research about the various health-giving properties of different types of alcohol is a bit of a red herring as the effect is usually marginal and restricted to a very small group of people under certain circumstances.

"There are damn sight better ways to protect against heart disease than by drinking beer, but people love this sort of thing because it gives them an excuse."

Mr Varley said that drinking large quantities of beer would create far more health problems than it would solve.

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