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A hint at a healthful effect of beer

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5:41pm, October 29, 2002
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Beer boosts blood concentrations of vitamin B6, a new study finds. This vitamin is required for the processing of amino acids and formation of chemicals essential for brain function. It also can break down homocysteine, an amino acid metabolite that has been identified as a heart-disease risk factor.

Dutch researchers tracked vitamin B6 concentrations in 11 men over 12 weeks. For 3-week periods, each man consumed with dinner four servings of either red wine, beer, gin, or mineral water. The regimens were switched every 3 weeks. The four beer servings totaled one liter. The researchers provided the volunteers a diet that didn't vary during the study.

Blood concentrations of vitamin B6 in the men were 30 percent higher, on average, after 3 weeks of drinking beer, compared to their values after the period of consuming water, Henk F.J. Hendriks, a nutritional physiologist at the TNO Nutrition and Food Research Institute in Zeist, and his colleagues report in the April 29 Lancet. Vitamin B6 concentrations rose 15 and 17 percent, respectively, after wine and gin consumption.

Homocysteine concentrations, however, didn't inversely correlate with the vitamin measurements as the scientists had expected. Beer consumption didn't change the homocysteine concentrations, but the concentrations rose up to 9 percent after the periods during which the men drank wine or gin.

"This surprised us," says Hendriks. The interplay between vitamin B6 and homocysteine isn't fully understood, he says.

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