The recent enthusiasm for craft brews has elevated beer out of the frat house basement and onto the menus of some of the finest restaurants. And this new-found appreciation for beer is not lost on those in the health field. A recent study showed that moderate beer consumption was associated with an improvement in cholesterol levels. Beer can now join wine on the shelf of heart-healthy drinks.
In the study, participants who consumed a moderate amount of beer each day had higher levels of HDL, or healthy cholesterol after one month. Interestingly, this effect was more pronounced in women than in men. HDL, or high density lipoproteins, act as cholesterol scavengers in the bloodstream, removing extra circulating LDL (“bad” cholesterol). The goal is to have an HDL over 60 mg/dL, which is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease.
How does beer increase HDL?
The heart-healthy benefits of beer, and wine for that matter, is largely attributed to the alcohol content. A moderate amount of alcohol increases the transport rates of HDL, raising the blood concentrations.
What is a moderate amount of alcohol?
The American Heart Association recommends one alcoholic drink per day for women and two for men. In the present study, female participants consumed 1 glass of alcohol and men consumed two glasses of alcohol per day. However, the AHA stipulates that if you don’t drink, you shouldn’t start. High consumption of alcohol is actually associated with higher LDL cholesterol, so don’t over do it.
How else can I raise my HDL?
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise regularly
- Include omega-3 fats in your diet, such as fish, flax and walnuts
- Avoid trans-fats
- Eat more soluble fiber such as oats, legumes, brussels sprouts and pears
- Abstain from tobacco
Let’s raise our glasses to a frosty mug of of the cold stuff.