It turns out a beer a day might actually keep the doctor away. Drinking one serving, or a pint, of beer each day could reduce the risk of stroke or heart disease by enhancing levels of "good" cholesterol, a study published Sunday found.
Shue Huang, a Ph.D. candidate at Penn State University in Pennsylvania, studied 80,000 healthy Chinese adults and their normal drinking habits for six years. Those who consistently drank moderately were found to have a slower decline in levels of good cholesterol, or high-density lipoprotein (HDL). For men, this amounted to one or two servings of alcohol daily. For women, moderate consumption is defined as a lesser half to one serving per day. The study found that when compared to heavy drinking or no drinking at all, minimal daily alcohol consumption slowed the decline of good cholesterol, thereby shrinking a person’s risk of stroke or heart disease.
The study also surveyed the consumption of hard liquor and found that only light drinkers saw slower rates of HDL decline. Light drinking for men is defined as less than one serving per day. For women, it is zero to 0.4 servings per day. The study didn’t include enough wine drinkers to adequately conclude the effects of moderate wine consumption.
Because the study surveyed only Chinese adults, it’s unclear whether or not the results can be attributed to a broader population. However, the results are in keeping with the government’s suggestions for alcohol consumption. Federal dietary guidelines suggest limiting servings to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
Heart disease and stroke are major problems in the United States and throughout the world. Cardiovascular disease ranks as the number one killer around the globe and accounts for 17.3 million deaths every day. That number is expected to rise to 23.6 million by 2030.
This is not the first time that researchers have touted the benefits of alcohol. In 2000, a Harvard School of Public Health study showed that moderate amounts of alcohol can cut heart-disease risk.