Study Shows Heart Benefits of Beer and Wine

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Are there benefits to drinking in moderation? Epidemiological studies have suggested there are. Populations that have a certain cultural bias toward beer or wine drinking show a related lowering of cardiac problems. Now, a study has teased out the how much and how often from the mix.

The meta study (a mathematical combination of previous work) showed that maximum heart protection came from different amounts of alcohol from beer or wine, measured on an average daily basis. Because wine contains more alcohol than a typical beer, drinking the same volume of each (about an 8-ounce serving) has different amounts of alcohol.

The maximum effect came with 21g per day of alcohol from wine and 43 g/day for beer. This translates into one serving of wine verses four for beer. Protection from vascular damage of 31% less than the normal background was the maximum achieved with wine and 42% for beer.

Translated, the mathematics seems to show that either beverage will lower the risk for heart attack, but in different amounts and only up to a certain point. Drinking more than this amount doesn’t give as much protection. In lay terms, the dictum “everything in moderation” applies.

Interestingly, drinking spirits (either as mixed drinks or straight) didn’t show a positive effect. Critics point to this as very telling. Perhaps it isn’t the alcohol at all that is helping reduce the risk of heart attack, perhaps it is something else in fermented beverages (as opposed to distilled alcohol).

The study does support some minimal level of beer or wine consumption as being healthy. Advocates will no doubt point to this study as supporting drinking over abstinence. However, it is important to keep in mind that while the study does distinguish quite well between beer and wine, it doesn’t really tell us what about those substances is helpful. It may not be the alcohol at all, and in fact, the lack of effect from distilled spirits suggests alcohol isn’t the right thing to measure. I may be that non-alcoholic beverages (beer and wine with the alcohol removed) will do as well. This remains to be tested.

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