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NEW YORK – Beer, when consumed in moderation, offers a number of health benefits for mature men and women, according to a noted Harvard professor who spoke yesterday at a media luncheon sponsored by Anheuser-Busch.
Meir Stampfer, M.D., Ph.D., who is professor of epidemiology and nutrition, and department chair at the Harvard School of Public Health, also debunked the myth that red wine is the only libation that does a body good. He said studies suggest that all alcoholic drinks have roughly the same health benefits.
One of the primary health advantages is alcohol's positive effect on the heart, noted Stampfer. A study he cited found that women who don’t drink alcoholic beverages have a 60 percent greater risk of developing coronary heart disease, compared with women who drink in moderation (consuming no more than one alcoholic beverage a day). "There are 60 or so prospective studies that back these findings," he said.
Men who drink up to two drinks a day (moderate drinkers) decrease their risk of heart disease by about 40 percent, Stampfer said.
Alcohol has been proved to raise the body's level of lipids (HDL-C), decrease insulin sensitivity and inflammation, and improve hemostatic functioning, he added.
Meanwhile moderate alcohol consumption appears to reduce the risk of developing diabetes, Stampfer said, emphasizing the importance of diet and exercise as parallel positive factors.
Another finding, which may dispel the "beer gut" theory, is that men who drink moderately do not have a higher Body Mass Index compared with men who don't drink. And women who drink moderately tend to be leaner than their nondrinking counterparts.
One potential danger of moderate alcohol consumption for women, however, is a 7 percent to 8 percent greater risk of developing breast cancer. Folate supplements may counter the risk, according to Stampfer.
The educator, who said he drinks daily, also cited a study that suggests moderate alcohol consumption lowers the risk of developing cognitive dysfunction in later years by about 20 percent.