September 18, 2004

Beer may be as healthy as wine

Nothing against wine, but this is possibly the best news I've heard in weeks:

Researchers at the University of Western Ontario (how cool is it that this finding emerges from my old school?) believe that beer may have the same antioxidizing effects as red wine. According to the press release, "[O]ne drink of beer or wine provides equivalent increases in plasma antioxidant activity, which helps prevent the oxidization of blood plasma by toxic free radicals that trigger many aging diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and cataracts."

The report continues:
Polyphenols are the compounds in plants that help prevent UV damage from the sun and make the plant cell wall strong. They are believed to have antioxidant benefits when consumed by the human body. Even though red wine contains more polyphenols than beer, this study showed the body absorbs about equally effective amounts of bioactive molecules such as polyphenols from beer and wine. Beer, wine, stout, and matured spirits (rum, whisky, sherry and port), which extract tannins from the oak casks they are matured or stored in, all contain significant amounts of polyphenols.
But before you all go rushing out to become alcoholics, realize that while studies have shown one daily drink of almost any alcoholic beverage can help reduce the risk of many aging diseases, larger daily intakes (three drinks per day) actually increases the risk of these diseases. This particular study suggests the risk is increased because three drinks result in the blood becoming pro-oxidant -- a phenomenon known as “hormesis”, the concept that small doses of a toxic substance can have beneficial effects while a large amount is harmful.

By the way, as I'm writing this I'm downing a glass of Konig Pilsner. And I feel good about this. Mmmmm, life *hic* extension...

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