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Wine or Beer? Both Equal Higher Blood Pressure

Mon Apr 18, 2005

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Red wine might be considered good for overall health, but it raises blood pressure nearly as much as beer does, Australian researchers reported on Monday.

People at risk of high blood pressure should not switch to red wine in the hope of being able to drink more, they concluded.

"A positive relationship between alcohol consumption and blood pressure is well established, but the relative effect of specific alcoholic beverages is controversial," said Renate Zilkens of the University of Western Australia, who led the study.

Some drinkers may have hoped that red wine's antioxidant compounds could counteract the effects of alcohol in raising blood pressure.

But, writing in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, Zilkens and colleagues said they found no such effect in 24 healthy, non-smoking men.

All the men, aged 20 to 65, said they drank alcohol daily but had normal blood pressure and no history of heart disease.

For the experiment the men abstained from all alcohol for two weeks and then took either another month of abstinence, 375 ml (13 ounces) of red wine a day, de-alcoholized red wine, or 1.125 ml (38 ounces) of beer. Each man cycled through all four groups over four months.

When drinking beer, the men had on average a higher systolic blood pressure (the first number in a blood pressure reading) of 2.9 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Daily wine drinking raised systolic pressure by an average of 1.9 mm Hg.

Beer also increased the sleeping heart rate by five beats a minute on average while wine made it go up by more than four beats a minute.

"The advice to drinking men 'at risk' of hypertension and those with hypertension is to drink less than two drinks per day," said Zilkens. "At that level they will still benefit from the HDL ("good") cholesterol-raising effect and anti-coagulant properties of alcohol which are considered to be protective of the heart."

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