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Dark beers heart friendly

Nov 19, 2003 - Dark beer offers some of the same heart-healthy benefits as chocolate and red wine, according too a new study. Guinness Stout had substantially more anti-clotting activity than Heineken, said John Folts, University of Wisconsin scientist. He presented his findings Tuesday at the American Heart Association annual meeting.

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The beneficial effect comes from flavonoids in the beer. Flavonoids are anti-oxidant compounds that provide the dark color in many fruits and vegetables. There are hundreds of flavonoids in beer, Folts said.

Flavonoids also work to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol, which plays a role in causing atherosclerosis — known as hardening of the arteries. They also help arteries to dilate, which improves blood flow and blood pressure, he said.

Folts said a person would have to reach a blood alcohol level of 0.06 in order to get the optimal anti-clotting effect. He said that for the typical person, that would be accomplished by drinking two 12-ounce bottles.

As always, doctors offered a balanced warning that even though dark beer may have heart-healthy properties, it also has a downside that could negate any benefit: extra calories. Dark chocolate and red wine have similar properties, but they also provide extra calories, and obesity is a risk factor for heart disease.

Ronald Korthuis, a professor of physiology at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, said Folts' research bolsters epidemiological studies suggesting that alcoholic beverages can reduce heart attacks. "What is impressive about Dr. Folts' observations is that the flavonoids in dark beer produce anti-platelet effects that rival those of aspirin," Korthuis said.

Folts is working on development of flavonoid extracts that can be put in a capsule so people can get its health benefits without consuming alcohol or excessive amounts of sugar in grape juice. "All of this good stuff is in the seeds, skin and certain other parts of fermenting plants, which are left in dark beer for a longer period of time than in light beer," Folts says.

So more healthy flavonoids are in dark beer.


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