April 18, 2005 -- Beer and red wine can raise your blood pressure, but
researchers say alcohol is still heart healthy in the right amount.
It's well known that alcohol can raise blood
pressure, but it's been unclear if different types of alcohol have
the same effect, says Renate R. Zilkens, PhD, research fellow in the School of
Medicine and Pharmacology at the University of Western Australia.
Zilkens and colleagues wanted to see if the antioxidant chemicals in red winered wine could offset some of
the blood pressure effects of alcohol. So they compared it with beer.
The researchers divided 24 healthy men into four different groups for four
Some men drank no wine or beer and served as a comparison group
Some men drank 13 ounces of red wine daily
Some men drank 13 ounces of red wine with the alcohol removed to see if the
alcohol accounted for any blood pressure effect
Some men drank 38 ounces of beer daily (just over three beers)
The men made no other changes in their lifestyle other than limiting tea to
less than 2 cups a day (since tea can also raise blood pressure) and avoiding
antioxidants (to avoid any potential effect on blood vessels).
The men wore blood pressure and heart rate monitors 24 hours a day.
Blood Pressure, Heart Rate Climb
Compared with the men who did not drink any alcohol, the red wine drinkers
had a nearly a 2.5 point jump in their systolic blood pressure. Beer drinkers'
blood pressure rose nearly two points.
Systolic blood pressure is the top number of a blood pressure reading. It
measures the pressure in blood vessels when the heart pumps.
While this doesn't sound like much, even a few points can make a difference
in people who have borderline or high blood pressure. Ideally, blood pressure
should be less than 120/80. Blood pressure between 120/80 and 140/90 is called
Heart rate also rose. The researchers tested heart rate during sleep to rule
out any effect of activity. Red wine drinkers' heart rate climbed five points
for eight to 10 hours after drinking. Beer drinkers' heart rate rose four
Removing alcohol from the red wine did not lower the blood pressure.
The researchers say that the blood pressure effects of red wine and beer
appear to be similar.
Since the men in the study did not have high blood pressure, it's unclear
how these findings apply to people who do. The study appears in the new issue
of Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association.
So how is alcohol good for your heart if it raises blood pressure? It's a
delicate balance, say researchers.
Men should drink less than two drinks per day, Zilkens says in a news
release. Women should have no more than one drink a day because they are more
sensitive to the potential damaging effects of alcohol due to body size and
Zilkens says at recommended alcohol levels men and women will still benefit
from heart-protective effects of alcohol. Men in the current study drank more
than the amount recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA).
One drink equals a 5 ounce glass of wine, a 12 ounce beer, or 1 ounce of