A pint of plain is yer only man if you want a healthy heart. Research presented this week in the US suggests that a pint of stout a day could help reduce the risk of heart attack, writes Dick Ahlstrom, Science Editor.
The work is from Prof John Folts, the same scientist who delivered the happy news that a glass or two of red wine each day gives the same beneficial health effects. He told the American Heart Association annual meeting in Orlando, Florida, this week that Guinness is twice as good as Heineken at reducing the risk of blood clots that can lead to heart attacks.
A professor of medicine and nutritional director of the University of Wisconsin's coronary thrombosis research and vascular biology laboratory, he conducted test-tube experiments and also fed beer to thirsty laboratory dogs suffering from artificially induced hardening of the arteries.
His results suggest that the anti-clotting properties found in Guinness rival those associated with taking a daily dose of aspirin to reduce the stickiness and clotting potential of the blood. No prizes for guessing which is the more pleasant medicine.
Prof Folts has studied a wide range of beverages over the past decade, looking for substances that reduce the readiness of platelets in the blood to form clots. Those rich in flavonoids, the anti-oxidant compounds that provide the dark colour in many fruits and vegetables, all showed strong anti-clotting properties. He showed that red wine was better than white wine, but also that dark grape juice and tea also had good anti-clotting properties. Coffee had a negative effect, increasing blood stickiness.
The dogs received either Guinness or Heineken. Flavonoid-rich Guinness had twice the anti-clotting effect of Heineken but the lager still reduced platelet activity. This matches research results from other labs that suggest that blood clotting is also reduced by a low daily intake of any form of alcohol.
Prof Folts said 24 ounces - slightly more than a standard Irish pint - delivered the best results, so this is a case where more is less. A single pint will do.
"A study of this nature is interesting and pleasing to us," said Mr Pat Barry of Guinness. While it didn't surprise him, "it isn't something we promote", he added.
The company no longer makes health claims for its stout, unlike the days when a bottle a day was given to breast-feeding mothers in Irish maternity hospitals.