A Little Bit of This/A Little Bit of That – Beer Helps
At the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Dr. Margo A. Denke, an Associate Professor of Medicine, conducted clinical research on the health effects of alcohol, and beer in particular. The results of her 2001 study found that moderate consumption of alcohol can lower risk of heart disease and stroke. “The majority of more recent large population-based studies have observed that moderate drinking in the range of one to three drinks daily is associated with a 30-40 percent lower rate of coronary heart disease compared to non-drinking,” wrote Dr. Denke. She cited several reasons for her findings.
* alcohol increases HDL and this could account for 30-50 percent of the moderate alcohol consumption benefit
* alcohol increases bleeding time, acting as blood thinner and reducing the risk of coronary thrombosis
* alcohol lowers insulin levels, which is good for non-diabetics because it reduces the chance of developing atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries
Dr. Denke believes that beer is a more beneficial alcoholic drink than spirits because beer contains many more nutrients per serving, such as protein and B-vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, cadmium and iron. She found that one to two beers a day provides 14 percent of dietary calories, 11 percent of dietary protein, 12 percent of dietary carbohydrates, nine percent of dietary phosphorus, seven percent of dietary riboflavin and five percent of dietary niacin.
Polyphenols in beer, also found in abundance in red wine, are also beneficial for their antioxidant properties that reduce LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) oxidation. Researchers in Denmark have studied the effect of polyphenols in red wine on heart health and concluded that only red wine produced enough of these compounds to be of benefit. Dr. Denke, however, has concluded that beer contains similar levels of polyphenols to red wine, and four to five times as much as white wine. (The Danish researchers agree with Dr. Denke on the white wine findings). Dr. Denke also points out that there are also several polyphenols in hops that have been shown to reduce test tube growth of human cancer cells.
Finally, Dr. Denke reports that beer has isoflavinoids, which are a class of so-called phytoestrogens: plant compounds that mimic the activity of the female hormone estrogen. Isoflavinoids have been found to inhibit test-tube growth of prostate, breast and colon cancers.
Alcohol and Women’s Health
Two studies released this year deal solely with the effects of drinking alcohol on women’s health.
A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine confirmed the benefits for women of drinking alcohol. Data was collected from more than 70,000 nurses aged 25-42 whose health histories were tracked from 1989. The study found that younger women who drink two or three alcoholic beverages a week have a lower risk of developing high blood pressure than women who do not drink alcohol. The women in the group who drank two or three alcoholic drinks a week had a 14 percent lower risk of developing high blood pressure than those who didn’t drink at all. (In this study, a drink was defined as either 12 ounces of regular beer, four ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor.)
A study of post-menopausal women found that alcohol helps lower cholesterol levels. The study, led by Dr. David J. Baer, a research physiologist affiliated with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Human Nutrition Research Center and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, included 51 healthy women with an average age of 60. Each woman was randomly assigned to one of three eight-week dietary programs. Those on the control diet drank no alcohol, some drank one drink a day and the third group drank two drinks a day. The women’s cholesterol and triacylglyceride levels were measured before, during, and after the study.
Dr. Baer’s team’s findings showed that the women who drank one drink a day reduced their triacylglyceride level by eight milligrams and their LDL cholesterol level by four milligrams. The women who drank two drinks a day increased their HDL by three milligrams. “The epidemiologic data suggest that increasing consumption above one or two drinks per day is detrimental and not protective,” said Baer. “Higher intakes of alcohol appear to increase triacylglycerides and do not appear to improve cholesterol levels.”