A famous and historic Irish (and Scottish) alcoholic drink can have health benefits if consumed in moderations – and we’re not talking about Guinness.
Researchers have claimed that drinking a small amount of whiskey can help to reduce the risk of heart disease. They suggest drinking a quantity equal to around three to four pub measures, but only once a week.
The research team were from the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen. They found that whiskey raises the levels of anti-oxidants in the body which helps to protect against coronary heart disease.
It has long been accepted that drinks such as red wine has this positive effect on the body, if consumed in moderation.
However the findings, which were published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggest that whiskey drinkers absorb a greater proportion of ‘phenol’ chemicals, which protect against the disease.
The researchers studied nine healthy men aged between 23 and 47. The men were free from clinical disorders and weren’t taking vitamin or mineral supplements.
They ate nothing from 11pm the previous night and were given a drink – either a 100ml glass of red wine, a 12-year-old malt whisky matured in oak or a newly distilled and non-matured whiskey.
They then did the necessary tests and went away before returning the following week to repeat the process. In the second week they had a different drink. Finally the process was repeated in the third week when each man was given the drink they had not had in the previous two weeks.
The tests showed that the 12-year-old whisky and the red wine provided a significant but short-lived boost to the phenol concentrations in the body. The wine had more phenols than the whisky but a greater proportion of the whisky’s phenols were absorbed by the body.
The non-matured whisky led to a fall in antioxidant capacity. Reasearchers believe this could be due to the copper content in new whisky.
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.”
However, Gary Ward, a spokesman for the Health Education Authority’s alcohol programme, warned that the results of the research may not be relevant to everyone.
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.”
So it may be OK to enjoy a Jameson’s or Bushmill’s every now and again, as long as we don’t overdo it.