Health Beat: The health benefits of beer

Drinking in moderation can be good for heart, doctor says

Health Beat: The health benefits of beer

In moderation, beer can actually be good for you, doctors say.

For many, St. Patrick's Day wouldn't be complete without a pint. In fact, 13 million pints of Guinness are chugged around the world every March 17.

"We brew bacon beer, Snicker's beer, s'mores beer," said Eric, a brew master, whose concoctions can intoxicate, and they could medicate. "It's like the best job ever."

"Well, alcohol's been used as medication forever and ever," said Sara Jo Nixon, an addiction expert and professor at the University of Florida, adding that, like red wine, drinking beer can be good for your heart. "That's something that the beer industry has not really capitalized on."

An Italian study of more than 200,000 people found those who drank a pint a day had a 31 percent decrease in heart disease risk. Beer can also raise HDL, the good cholesterol in your body.

A 2009 study found that beer can be good for bones, but too much could mean more fractures. 

"We also know that there's a line between too much alcohol being bad for bones," explained Nixon.

Harvard studies found beer can prevent blood clots and reduce the risk of stroke, and that a few beers a day lowered the risk of diabetes in middle-aged men by 25 percent.

Research in Europe found moderate beer drinkers had 30 percent higher levels of the disease-fighting vitamin B-6 compared to non-drinkers. 

"But, you can't substitute a beer for your multi-vitamin," Nixon warned.

Moderation is key, she said. It's recommended women have no more than one drink a day and men, no more than two because the organ systems that benefit from a few beers "are the same organ systems that are comprised when you cross the line," Nixon said.

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