Beer is good for more than spiritual nourishment, according to a recent study: Research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2016 in New Orleans this week showed that moderate alcohol consumption — particularly among daily beer drinkers — is associated with slower declines of good cholesterol, contributing to lower risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.
According to the study, conducted by PhD candidate Shue Huang at Pennsylvania State University and following alcohol consumption and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) in a community of 80,000 Chinese adults over six years, HDL (that’s the good cholesterol) levels decreased more slowly in moderate drinkers compared to non-drinkers and heavy drinkers.
The study also analyzed type of alcohol and found that for beer drinkers, levels of HDL decreased more slowly over time than for liquor drinkers (winos didn’t show up for this study, apparently — there were not enough participants who self-reported as wine drinkers to measure that type of alcohol).
What’s “moderate” beer drinking? For women, it’s half a serving to one serving of alcohol per day, and for men, one to two alcohol servings per day. In both of these groups, HDL saw the slowest decline, at 0.17 mmol/year (that’s millimoles per liter, the international standard unit for measuring blood glucose levels). Unfortunately for heavy drinkers (more than one or two drinks per day, respectively), the benefit was “nearly eliminated,” showing a decline of .0008 mmol/year.
Although further studies are needed to determine whether this effect is true for other populations, like those of us in the U.S., Huang’s research joins several studies claiming the benefits of beer in recent years — a study in Spain suggested beer as a post-workout alternative to water; the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry linked hops to an increased attention span; and Consciousness and Cognition, another journal, published a study that said beer can boost creativity.
It may be worth noting that while the AHA says imbibing alcoholic beverages in moderation is cool for those who already drink, for those who don’t, it’s a good idea to consult a doctor first. Whatever the case, we’re certainly willing to boast our beer consumption as being good for us.