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The Buzz On Beer's Health Benefits

The Buzz On Beer's Health BenefitsDoes a beer a day keep the doctor away? According to Tufts experts, moderate beer consumption may offer health benefits worth drinking to. Boston.

Boston [04.15.04] Two men walk into a bar and ... lower their risk of heart disease? While it may seem contradictory, the health benefits of beer are not a joke. According to Tufts experts, new research is generating buzz that moderate consumption of your favorite brew may help improve your health.

"[Tufts' Katherine] Tucker recently participated in a study that showed beer, either dark or light, protects bone mineral density," reported The Harford Courant.

According to Tucker - associate professor of nutrition at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy - the alcoholic beverage contains high levels of an ingredient which allows the deposit of calcium and other minerals into bone tissue.

"The reason, we think, is that beer is a major contributor to the diet of silicon," the Tufts expert, who is director of the nutritional epidemiology program at the Friedman School, told the Courant.

And protecting bones may not be the only health benefit of beer. Another recent study found that moderate consumption of dark beer - which contains antioxidants that help prevent clogged arteries -- may reduce risk of heart disease.

"Most health research suggests that benefits, including protection against heart disease, are noted with up to one drink per day for women and up to two a day for men," Tucker told the Courant.

But the Tufts expert warned that "above this amount, the negative effects of alcohol seem to outweigh the positive effects."

For those worried about the "beer belly" often associated with drinking a few pints, there is some good news.

"Particular foods just don't pick particular places to lodge," Tufts' Larry Lindner - executive editor of the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter - told Newsday. "It's not as if beer says, ‘Ok, I'll just go to this guy's belly,' or a chocolate bar says, ‘and I'll go to that woman's thighs.'"

But the calories in each bottle of beer are worth counting.

According to Tufts' Alice Lichtenstein, the extra calories associated with excess alcohol consumption may take away from its health benefits.

"The bottom line is obesity is a major problem," Lichtenstein - professor of nutrition at the Friedman School and vice chairman of the American Heart Association's nutrition committee - told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "People need to worry about energy balance."

Since obesity is a risk factor for heart disease, the Tufts expert worries that too much of a good thing may neutralize beer's heart-healthy benefits.

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