Forget what your mother told you, beer is good for your health after all.
In fact, according to a study presented at a conference last Friday by Dr. J. Michael Gaziano, instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, small amounts of any type of alcohol may reduce the risk of heart disease.
"Like any controversial subject, there were a lot of questions," said Gaziano, who presented the finding at the annual scientific meeting of the American Heart Association in Anaheim, Calif.
In a control study over a period of 18 months, researchers examined 340 people who had heart attacks versus 340 people who had not.
Gaziano and his associates interviewed heart attack victims who had been discharged from six Boston-area hospitals about their eating, drinking and smoking habits. Researchers also took blood samples and conducted other medical tests.
Gaziano defended the scientific grounding of the controversial results.
"We got a few phone calls [during the course of the study] from concerned individuals, [but] it's all science," he said.
Researchers concluded that half a drink or more per day was beneficial to the health of those studied.
Gaziano recommended drinking "moderate" amounts of alcohol and said that between one to two drinks a day is most beneficial.
"Some people [in the study] drank as much as three or four [drinks per day] but that was not the norm," said Gaziano.
"I think we shouldn't be afraid of moderate drink," he said, "[although] it's a very emotional issue, and a lot of people feel very emotional about it."
When asked about how the study would affect the common perception of beer, Gaziano said, "I think most people had heard that wine drinking was good for your health, but we showed that it's alcohol from beer, wine or liquor that raises the levels of high-density lipoprotein or 'good cholesterol."
For the average person, Gaziano explained that "good cholesterol" takes blood away from artery walls, thus preventing heart disease; while low-density lipoprotein or "bad cholesterol" sticks to artery walls and clogs the blood vessels.
Gaziano said that "good cholesterol" is also produced by exercise, by estrogen in females and by other dietary factors.
So how will the study affect college students? "The best amount of drinking is done in moderation rather than [having] seven beers on Saturday night," Gaziano said. "That would be like taking seven days' worth of vitamins in one sitting.
"The best amount of drinking is done in moderation rather than [having] seven beers on Saturday night," Gaziano said. "That would be like taking seven days' worth of vitamins in one sitting.
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