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Beer, in moderation, cuts risk of cataracts and heart disease

at lenses, Trevithick's laboratory found that antioxidants that act similarly to those in beer protect special parts of cells in the eye - called mitochondria. Damaged mitochondria can lead to an increased incidence of cataracts.

The scientists discovered that putting the eye's lens under high glucose stress - similar to what happens to diabetics when their glucose levels rise - damages mitochondria in the lens' outer cells. Mitochondria are responsible for converting glucose to energy.

"What often happens with diabetes is that the people don't get diagnosed until they've had one or two episodes of really high blood glucose for a period of time, like a day or two," Trevithick said. "That may be enough to damage the lens."

"Antioxidants protect the mitochondria against this damage," according to Trevithick. "We think that may be one of the factors that's contributing to the lower risk of cataracts in people who have one drink a day."

The cost-benefit aspect of antioxidants and cataracts is very important, Trevithick believes. He says cataract operations cost the U.S. Medicare program about $4 billion a year. "If you could cut that by 50 percent, you're saving over $2 billion a year. And that's just in the states."

Trevithick's daughter, Colleen Trevithick, now pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of California, Los Angeles, is also involved in the beer antioxidant studies. She is investigating which part of the brewing process may contribute the antioxidants to beer and will present some of her findings at the meeting.

At the University of Scranton, Vinson, a professor of chemistry, found that giving hamsters the human equivalent of two beers a day halved their rate of atherosclerosis. "This is a significant effect," he noted.

"Beer has a fair amount of antioxidants compared to other beverages," Vinson said. "There is a definite be
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Contact: Charmayne Marsh
y_marsh@acs.org
808-944-6381
American Chemical Society
16-Dec-2000


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