Why beer may deter blood clots

Downing a beer a day alters the structure of fibrinogen, a blood protein active in clotting. The preliminary finding by an international research team could be good news for people with artery-narrowing atherosclerosis. They might be able to diminish their risk of heart attacks and strokes by routinely lifting a mug.

For their investigation, Shela Gorinstein of the Hebrew University–Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem and her colleagues recruited 48 men who had just recovered from coronary-artery-bypass surgery. Half received 12 ounces of pale lager every day for a month; the rest got an equivalent amount of mineral water. All participants ate a roughly 1,700-calorie daily diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and olive oil.

When Gorinstein’s team compared blood samples from each recruit both before and at the end of the trial, big changes emerged–but only in the men drinking beer. Not only did about 10 percent of their clot-promoting fibrinogen disappear, but more-detailed analyses also revealed that much of the remaining fibrinogen underwent structural changes that compromise the clotting process.

The end result: The men should be less prone to cardiovascular disease stemming in part from clots, Gorinstein says. Her team reports its findings in the Jan. 29 Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Earlier work by the group suggests that at least some of the newfound fibrinogen effects trace to polyphenols–pigmented antioxidant compounds in beer, tea, wine, and fruit juices. Moreover, the team’s earlier studies of people with high cholesterol showed that regular, moderate beer drinking lowered their total cholesterol by about 25 percent and their low-density (bad) cholesterol by more than 27 percent.


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Janet Raloff is the Editor, Digital of Science News Explores, a daily online magazine for middle school students. She started at Science News in 1977 as the environment and policy writer, specializing in toxicology. To her never-ending surprise, her daughter became a toxicologist.

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