Alcoholic drinks are protective of cardiovascular disease. The exact reason for this is not fully understood, but evidence suggests that alcohol prevents platelet aggregation, and this in turn decreases the risk of suffering a heart attack. Most alcoholic drinks appear to be beneficial, and the effects last for around 24 hours following the last drink. After this time the risk of a heart attack rises again. Therefore regular consumers of alcohol have the best protection.
Cider is an alcoholic drink made from apples. As with most alcoholic drinks, cider contains many of the polyphenols found in unprocessed apples. These polyphenols are thought to confer their own cardioprotection, and in combination this produces a significant benefit to regular consumption of cider. They say that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, and this may also be true for cider. Cheaper cider tends to contain more chemical residues and so may not be quite as beneficial for the health.
Beer is made from the fermentation of barley or wheat, with addition of hops. As with most other alcoholic drinks this may provide a certain amount of phytonutrients in the beer. Traditional ales are probably more beneficial because they are less processed and generally contain less chemicals, compared with more popular commercial beers. In addition, beer has quite a high carbohydrate content and this may over time cause significant weight gain in those who drink it regularly.
Spirits possess cardioprotective effects because of the alcohol they contain. Studies show that most spirits, including vodka, whiskey, gin and brandy, can provide this beneficial effects. Drinking spirits neat, with water or ice is preferable to using mixers that may contain sugar. The beneficial effects of spirits are likely not as great as the benefits seen with polyphenol containing drinks such as cider and wine, but may be as great as those seen for beer.
Wine is perhaps the most researched alcoholic drink with regards cardioprotection. Studies attest to the beneficial effects that are observed in populations that drink red wine frequently. White wine is protective but to a lesser degree than red wine. This is because the red wine contains higher concentrations of polyphenols and stilbenes, two phytochemicals that might provide additional cardioprotection through their antioxidant activity.
Alcohols And Cholesterol
Although alcohol decreases the risk of a heart attack by decreasing the risk of blood clots, it may have other mechanisms of action. Regular consumption of alcohol increases the beneficial HDL cholesterol and also increases the particle size of both HDL and LDL, both of which reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Alcohol is also associated with weight loss. As body weight is associated with cardiovascular disease, this may also explain the beneficial effects of alcohol.
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