This is news you’ll definitely want to share tonight at Happy Hour. (Photo: Getty Images)
Heart health-conscious drinkers have been reaching for wine for years. But new research has found that beer may be even better for your ticker than wine.
A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health Care discovered that women who drank beer once or twice a week had a 30 percent lower risk of heart attack than those who drank beer more than twice a week or had no beer at all.
For the study, researchers asked nearly 1,500 women aged 32 to 60 questions about how often they drank beer, wine, or hard alcohol, as well as their physical health. After 32 years, they followed up and found that 185 women had a heart attack, 162 had a stroke, 160 developed diabetes, and 345 developed cancer.
While researchers found a link between moderate beer drinking and a lowered risk of a heart attack, they (surprisingly) didn’t find the same correlation with wine-drinkers.
Wine is known as the heart-healthy alcoholic beverage, but scientists have previously linked beer with heart health — in men, at least. A study of more than 38,000 men published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that those who had beer (and other forms of alcohol) at least three to four days a week had a lower risk of heart attack than men who drank alcohol less than once a week.
Kenneth J. Mukamal, MD, an associate professor of medicine at the Harvard School of Public Health who conducted that study (and others on the impact of alcohol consumption on our health), tells Yahoo Health that he isn’t shocked by the latest findings.
“In most cases, overall alcohol intake is associated with lower risk of heart attack,” he says.
While this particular study found that drinking beer was more beneficial, Mukamal says wine-lovers shouldn’t suddenly make the switch. “When you start trying to parse [the heart health benefits] into individual beverages, you start getting sporadic results,” he explains.
Instead, Mukamal says it’s important to focus on the bigger picture: Having one or two drinks a week seems to be beneficial for our hearts. (Per the National Institutes of Health, one serving of beer is 12 ounces, one serving of wine is five ounces, and one serving of hard alcohol is 1.5 ounces.)
“We know that moderate drinking influences a number of factors that could lower risk of heart attack,” Mukamal says. “It increases HDL, the good cholesterol, and lowers the stickiness of blood cells. That’s true across beverages.”
Moderate beer-drinking has also been linked with a lowered risk of hypertension and good mineral bone density (researchers say the latter is due to beer’s high levels of silicon, which helps the absorption of calcium and minerals to make your bones stronger).
But Nicole Weinberg, MD, a cardiologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., tells Yahoo Health that the new findings run contrary to what she sees in her practice. She says the patients she sees who consume beer typically have higher weight, cholesterol, and blood sugar.
However, she says that may be due to what happens when they drink beer: “Maybe it’s guilty by association — you’re eating pizza or watching football while you drink beer.” The latest research was conducted in Sweden, where the same beer associations may not exist.
Weinberg says she isn’t ready to “sing the praises” of beer just yet, but she notes that the benefit for beer drinkers may be more indirect. People typically drink beer while hanging out with friends, she says, which can be a de-stressor (and therefore help your heart).
The NIH currently recommends that women have no more than one alcoholic drink a day and men consume no more than two daily — guidelines that Mukamal says are smart to follow, whether you drink wine, hard alcohol, or beer.
Cheers to that.
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