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Good News For Beer Drinkers

According to a new study, moderate consumption of beer has more health benefits than red wine.

University of Texas Southwestern Dr. Norman Kaplan explained to The Early Show what the findings mean.

Kaplan says beer in moderation can deliver protection against heart attacks, stroke, hypertension, diabetes and dementia. Red wine gets all the glory because people who drink wine also tend to have healthier lifestyles in general. All forms of alcohol have benefits in moderation, but beer data has been submerged because beer drinkers tend to have unhealthy habits like binge drinking and smoking as well.

Early in the 19th century, doctors made the link between modest drinking and a lower risk of heart disease. By the '90s the United States government allowed red wine labels to state that two glasses a day could help protect against this killer illness.

Red wine producers were extremely happy with this but the other alcoholic beverage producers in the industry complained, as there was other evidence to suggest it was the modest but regular drinking of any alcohol that did you good. The truth is somewhere between.

Two alcoholic drinks a day produce medical benefits but different forms of alcohol have specific advantages. The overall evidence is that moderate social drinkers live longer and are generally healthier than abstainers. Moderation means one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. One drink is equivalent to twelve ounces of beer.

Kaplan studied alcohol consumption's effects on health for decades as part of his research into hypertension. There are more than 30 studies that document the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption when it comes to reducing the risk of heart disease.

Good Beer Ingredients?

When it comes to beer, Kaplan cites a study of 70,000 nurses that showed the beer drinkers had lower hypertension than wine or whiskey drinkers, a Kaiser Permanente survey of more than 125,000 people that showed less heart disease for beer drinkers than wine or whiskey drinkers, and study from the Netherlands showing less risk of Alzheimers disease for beer drinkers. Beer has varying components like hops and barley that are not present in wine or whiskey. The added benefits include ingredients like B vitamins or folates, which have been shown to reduce homocysteine levels in the blood and reduce heart disease risk.

In general, moderate amounts of alcohol also have ways of improving good cholesterol by at least 10 to 20 percent and it prevents blood from clotting in a way similar to aspirin. Alcohol gets into the blood and has effects everywhere but there's lots of evidence that alcohol use in moderation reduces heart attack, stroke and dementia.

According to the study, moderate beer drinkers have the least heart attacks over time compared to wine or whiskey drinkers. Preliminary findings also show a possible benefit in beer for reducing osteoporosis. Hops used in brewing contain phytoestrogens, which help prevent bone loss.

Total U.S. beer consumption increased to approximately 198.8 million barrels in 2001 — up from 197.6 million barrels in 2000, according to Beer Institute (the leading trade association for brewers and suppliers to the industry). As far as the risk that accompanies weight gain from drinking that much beer, it actually has fewer calories than soft drinks, full-cream milk and wine. Much of the weight gain people commonly attribute to beer drinking is more to do with the snack foods that so often accompany it.

Caution Of Over-Drinking

Most experts agree that we should not encourage drinking among a young population for health benefits and that a greater emphasis should be placed on avoiding risky patterns of drinking rather than on reducing average alcohol consumption. Doctors warn against binge drinking and say daily drinking contributes to liver disease. Drinking at an early age could actually increase the risk of death, either from disease or in an alcohol-related accident.

Physical health is not the only way a drinker can be affected positively or negatively. Alcohol can cause addiction and other mental and psychological consequences. In a 2000 survey taken by 55,026 students for the Core Institute for Alcohol and Drug Studies, students indicated high percentages for experiencing hangovers, vomiting, having unwanted sexual encounters and starting fights or arguments.

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