The British medical journal Lancet recently reported the results of a study which compared the impact of different alcoholic beverages on homocysteine, a marker of cardiovascular health.
In the study, a population of 111 healthy men were asked to drink a measured amount of a specific beverage with their evening meal for three weeks. The beverages included water, beer, red wine and spirits. Homocysteine levels were tested at the end of each three week period and researchers found that they rose when wine or liquor was consumed but stayed the same when beer was the beverage of choice.
The difference is believed to be attributable to the quantities of B vitamins, especially B6 that are found in beer. Researchers found that blood levels of B6 rose 30 percent among the study participants when they were drinking beer.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), homocysteine is an amino acid found in the blood. Epidemiological studies have shown that too much homocysteine in the blood is related to a higher risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease.
The AHA points out that plasma homocysteine levels are strongly influenced by diet, as well as genetic factors. The dietary components with the greatest effects are folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12. Folic acid and other B vitamins help break down homocysteine in the body. Several studies, including the recent multi-center European trial, have found that higher blood levels of B vitamins are related, at least in part, to lower concentrations of homocysteine. Other recent evidence shows that low blood levels of folic acid are linked with a higher risk of fatal coronary heart disease and stroke.