1. Headline
  1. Headline
By
updated 11/23/2010 2:48:26 PM ET 2010-11-23T19:48:26

When you raise a glass to toast with some wine or champagne this Thanksgiving, you are doing your heart a favor, according to a new study.

  1. More from TODAY.com
    1. Two abandoned baby hedgehogs get some TLC after a prickly start

      It can be a rough world for a hedgehog. After being abandoned by their mom, two baby hedgehogs are making a comeback thank...

    2. Fried chicken skin and more new fair food you have to try
    3. 'Grey's Anatomy' star Sarah Drew reveals her baby bump
    4. What bugs us most: Top 10 consumer gripes
    5. Death-defying: Mom battled cancer while 'feisty' baby waited for a new heart

The results of the study revealed how moderate alcohol consumption can help to prevent heart disease by blocking the signals of molecules linked to plaque build-up in arteries.

The molecules, called "Notch" proteins, are vital to embryonic development, and in adults, they help control the tiny, involuntary muscles that regulate blood flow though arteries. When Notch molecules are stimulated — by high levels of cholesterol, smoking or changes in blood flow — they spur these smooth muscle cells to multiply, which can lead to development of arterial plaques, said study researcher Eileen Redmond, an associate professor in the department of surgery at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

But when these smooth muscle cells are exposed to alcohol, the Notch signaling is blocked, and the cells in the arterial wall don't grow and thicken, Redmond said.

  1. MyHealthNewsDaily
    1. Workers Want Employers to Help Them Stay Healthy
    2. Girls Struggle More When Friends Let Them Down
    3. Psychotherapy May Help Teens with Fibromyalgia
    4. Collective Brands Recalls KEDS Girls' Shoes

Drinking "small amounts, regularly, is how to get the best effect," she told MyHealthNewsDaily. "It's the people who drink one to two drinks a day who have the best protection" from heart disease.

However, large amounts of alcohol and binge drinking can be harmful to the heart and can lead to stroke, according to the American Heart Association.

The study was published Nov. 18 in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.

Testing the theory
Researchers grew cells from human coronary arteries in dishes, and exposed them to alcohol. They found that alcohol stopped growth of the arterial cells by putting the brakes on the signaling abilities of Notch, Redmond said.

Then, the researchers tested the effects of alcohol in mice. They gave one group of mice the equivalent of two alcohol drinks a day, and another group no alcohol. Mice given the alcohol had less Notch signaling, and their blood vessels walls were thinner than the mice that didn't drink, according to the study.

The finding demonstrates how alcohol works to benefit the heart — and paves the way for future research for a drug that can mimic alcohol, Redmond said.

"If we can understand the mechanisms mediating the beneficial effects of moderate alcohol consumption, we can develop therapy that can mimic good effects without the intoxicating and deleterious effects of alcohol," she said.

  1. Don't miss these Health stories
    1. More women opting for preventive mastectomy - but should they be?
      Splash News

      Rates of women who are opting for preventive mastectomies, such as Angeline Jolie, have increased by an estimated 50 perce...

    2. Larry Page's damaged vocal cords: Treatment comes with trade-offs
    3. Report questioning salt guidelines riles heart experts
    4. CDC: 2012 was deadliest year for West Nile in US
    5. What stresses moms most? Themselves, survey says

Real-life applications
The finding supports evidence from other studies that modest alcohol consumption is good for heart health. A study presented at an American Heart Association meeting this month found that male heart bypass patients who drank lightly or moderately were less likely to need another heart procedure or suffer a heart attack or stroke than patients who didn't drink.

But what counts as a "healthy" dose of alcohol? The Mayo Clinic recommends healthy women drink no more than three drinks on one occasion, or seven drinks a week, and healthy men ages 65 and younger drink no more than four drinks per occasion, or 14 drinks a week. Healthy men ages 65 and older should drink no more than three drinks per occasion, or seven drinks a week.

A 12-ounce beer, 5-ounce glass of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits counts as one drink, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Reach MyHealthNewsDaily staff writer Amanda Chan at achan@techmedianetwork.com. Follow her on Twitter @ AmandaLChan.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. Ann and Steve Toon/Solent News

    Two abandoned baby hedgehogs get some TLC after a prickly start

    7/30/2014 6:42:41 PM +00:00 2014-07-30T18:42:41
  1. Michael Reynolds / EPA file

    What bugs us most: Top 10 consumer gripes

    7/30/2014 6:33:02 PM +00:00 2014-07-30T18:33:02
  1. Courtesy Graves family

    Death-defying: Mom battled cancer while ‘feisty’ baby waited for a new heart

    7/30/2014 2:52:11 PM +00:00 2014-07-30T14:52:11
  1. Strike on Gaza shopping area kills at least a dozen, wounds 150

    An Israeli airstrike hit a crowded Gaza shopping area on Wednesday, killing at least 16 people and wounding more than 150, just hours after Israeli tank shells slammed into a U.N. school, Gaza health officials said.

    7/30/2014 5:38:37 PM +00:00 2014-07-30T17:38:37
  1. Courtesy of CSPI

    The 'fattest' chain restaurant meals win a dubious honor

    7/30/2014 2:50:15 PM +00:00 2014-07-30T14:50:15