A pint of beer, a shot of whisky, or a glass of wine taken before exercise could reduce the risk of heart disease, according to new research, which suggests that stopping at the pub on the way to the gym may be the key to good health.
A study has found that drinking a moderate amount of alcohol before a strenuous workout reduces the levels of clotting substances in the blood by at least 15 per cent.
Dr Mamoud El-Sayed, a Reader in Sports Science at John Moores University in Liverpool, who conducted the study, said: "Perhaps people should rethink their trips to the gym and go for a drink before rather than after, as most of them do."
Fifty healthy volunteers took part in the two-year study. Blood samples were taken while they were resting; after they had drunk a "moderate" amount of vodka, and after they had worked out vigorously on an exercise bike for 30 minutes at 65 per cent of their capacity, and for five minutes flat out.
A control group drank water or orange juice instead of alcohol.
Analysis of the blood samples showed that in the alcohol group there was a 15 per cent decrease in fibrinogen (a blood clotting agent) levels, compared with the non-alcohol group.
Dr El-Sayed said: "Less fibrinogen means the blood is less viscous; alcohol appears to have the effect of thinning the blood and so relieving the burden on the heart ...
"This is a very exciting discovery which has huge implications for people worried about heart disease.
"It proves that alcohol has a role to play in keeping people healthy."
Previous research has confirmed that alcohol has a "U-shaped" relationship with cardiovascular health: too little or too much is bad for you but a moderate amount has a positive effect.
Scientists believed the beneficial effects were restricted to red wine, but more recent findings suggest that it is the alcohol content which is important, regardless of how it is delivered in wine, spirits, or beer.
Dr El-Sayed said that the research, which he will present at an international conference in Finland at the weekend, can be extrapolated to a range of beverages, equivalent to a pint to a pint and a half of beer.
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