The heart produces the same reaction to alcohol and to interrupted blood flow
Drinking could effectively train the heart cells how to react to heart attack
The effect is not the same for all and excessive drinking has opposite effect
Alcohol can strengthen the heart because it teaches cells how to cope with stress, a study has found.
The organisms the body produces to clear toxic chemicals from alcohol are the same ones it needs to protect the heart from damage, researchers say.
The body produces organisms called enzymes which break down the toxic parts of alcohol when people drink it, and they are the same enzymes which are released to protect the heart when it suffers major damage, such as during a heart attack.
So exposing the heart to low levels of alcohol effectively trains the body how to create the enzymes needed to cope with a heart attack.
However, drinking excessively has the opposite effect and makes the heart more vulnerable than not drinking at all.
Researchers at the University of São Paulo in Brazil say the findings could lead to a drug which does the same thing but does not carry the risks of drinking alcohol.
Scientists say drinking alcohol causes a similar reaction in the body to a heart attack but on a smaller scale, meaning it could effectively train the heart how to cope with damage
In their research the scientists said it is already known that drinking alcohol in moderation can improve heart health, but the reasons are not well understood.
Now they say it could be because being exposed to the poisonous ethanol in alcohol builds up the same protective reaction that is needed to reduce damage during a heart attack.
The researchers do not explain how much alcohol is optimal and say it varies depending on the individual.
They used the equivalent of two cans of beer for an average man, but drinking that every day would be 28 units per week – double the NHS’s recommended amount.