July 7/Athens, Greece/UPI -- Drinking beer improved arterial function -- blood vessels become more flexible and blood flowed better to the heart -- within hours, Greek researchers say.

Kalliopi Karatzi, Victoria G. Rontoyanni, Dr. Athanase D. Protogerou and colleagues at Harokopio University in Athens recruited 17 healthy, nonsmoking, men with a median age of 28 and a normal body mass index.

They consumed, on three separate occasions, at least one week apart: two-thirds of a pint of beer, the same amount of non-alcoholic beer and a vodka drink with the same amount of alcohol as in the beer.

Aortic stiffness or pulse wave velocity, pressure wave reflections, aortic and brachial pressure and endothelial function, shown to be of significance inpredicting stroke and heart attacks, were assessed.

Aortic stiffness was significantly and similarly reduced by all three interventions. However, endothelial function was significantly improved only after beer consumption.

The study found that, although wave reflections were significantly reduced by all three interventions, the reduction was higher after beer consumption compared with non-alcoholic beer.

The findings, published in the journal Nutrition, suggest both the alcohol and antioxidants in beer might be beneficial to heart function.