Page last updated: Monday, May 12, 2008
Beer and heart attack risk
A study from Israel ties moderate beer drinking to lower heart attack risk. Preliminary clinical studies of a group of men with coronary artery disease, show that drinking one beer (12 ounces) a day for a month produces changes in blood chemistry that are associated with a reduced risk of heart attack.

The study by Sheila Gorinstein, Ph.D. of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem adds to growing evidence that moderate alcohol consumption may reduce the risk of heart disease. Their findings appear in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Heart-healthy changes observed in the blood of the test participants following beer-drinking include decreased cholesterol levels, increased antioxidants and reduced levels of fibrinogen, a clot-producing protein. The study also showed, for the first time, that drinking alcoholic beveragescauses structural changes in fibrinogen that make the clotting protein less active. Gorenstien belives that characterizing these structural changes of fibrinogen may one day serve as a new diagnostic indicator of heart attack risk, along with known risk indicators such as blood cholesterol and antioxidant levels. Further studies are needed.

Forty-eight (48) men, ages 46-72, with coronary artery disease were divided evenly into two groups. Individuals in one group drank the equivalent of 12 ounces (one standard can or bottle) of beer a day for 30 consecutive days, while the others drank mineral water. Both groups ate a similar diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, during this period.

In 21 of the 24 patients in the beer-drinking group, the researchers found positive changes in blood chemicals that are associated, on the basis of previous studies by Gorinstein and others, with a decreased heart attack risk. These changes include a decrease in "bad" cholesterol, an increase in "good" cholesterol, an increase in antioxidant levels, and a decrease in levels and activity of fibrinogen.

These changes, most likely produced by the relatively high polyphenol content of beer, were generally not seen in the blood of the non-beer-drinking group. The patients are currently being monitored to evaluate long-term heart attack risk and survival rates, but results are not yet available.

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