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Monday, December 14, 1998 Published at 18:06 GMT


It's for medicinal purposes, honest...

Whisky: The secret of a healthy heart?

A large shot of whisky can help protect against heart disease, scientists have claimed.

Researchers claim that drinking the equivalent of three or four pub measures of the spirit can boost the body's defences against disease.

However, the bad news is that scientists found that the benefit was achieved by drinking just once a week.

The research, led by the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen and part sponsored by the Scotch Whisky Research Institute, found that both whisky and red wine helped to protect against coronary heart disease by raising the body's level of anti-oxidants.

However, it was the whisky drinkers who absorbed a greater proportion of the "phenol" chemicals that provide the protective effect.

The findings, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, followed research on nine healthy men aged 23 to 47, free from clinical disorders and taking no vitamin or mineral supplements.

They were asked to eat nothing from 11 pm the previous night, and the next morning received either 100 ml of Cape Bay Mellow Red wine, a 12-year-old malt whisky matured in oak, or a "new make" spirit - a newly distilled and non-matured whisky.

They downed their drink within five minutes, and a week later did the same again, this time switching to one of the other drinks.

After another week they did the same again, this time switching to the third type of drink.

Short-lived boost

[ image: Red wine produces a beneficial effect]
Red wine produces a beneficial effect
Tests showed that drinking either wine or mature whisky gave a significant but short-lived boost to the phenol concentrations in the body.

A greater proportion of the whisky's phenols were absorbed than the proportion absorbed from the wine, although the wine contained far more phenols to start with.

But there was a marked fall in antioxidant capacity after drinking the "new make" whisky, and the researchers speculate this could be because of the copper content of the new whisky.

They said the findings support suggestions from other research that "moderate alcohol consumption may reduce the risk of development of heart disease."

Hugh Morison, director general of the Scotch Whisky Association, said: "The word whisky comes from uisge beatha, the Gaelic for water of life, so it is no surprise to Scotch whisky drinkers that a short of their favourite dram is good for their heart.

"This research is yet further evidence that the moderate consumption and enjoyment of all alcoholic beverages is beneficial to health."

Gary Ward, a spokesman for the Health Education Authority's alcohol programme, said the research was "interesting".

But he said the HEA was unlikely to recommend that people take up drinking whisky on health grounds.

He said: "The public health advice we give is that any alcohol, if you drink as little as one to two units a day, can protect against coronary heart disease, but only if you are in a risk group, such as menopausal women or men over 40 years who are prone to heart trouble."

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