11/03/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Booze Clues: How A Little Hooch Can Help Your Heart

How a little hooch helps your heart, brain, and even your weight.

The pillars of good health: diet, exercise, and raspberry daiquiris. OK, maybe not. But here's proof that alcohol benefits your body in some eyebrow-raising ways. A healthy happy-hour habit is linked to a 25 to 50 percent lower risk of heart disease and diabetes in women, says Eric Rimm, Sc.D., associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. Your gray matter gets lucky too, since the occasional cocktail may also keep memory intact. And no need to worry about your butt spilling over the bar stool -- a little imbibing may help you avoid excess flab.

Before you down an entire bottle of celebratory bubbly, bear in mind that experts emphasize moderation. That means one drink a day on average for women, or the occasional two-round night. Generally, you should never have more than three -- a level defined as "binge drinking" by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Once alcohol gets past your taste buds, it could be a cosmo or a Corona for all your body cares -- it does the same good stuff (and bad, if you drink too much). So take a seat at the bar and check out what happens when your next cocktail slides down the hatch.

In the Kisser

Within 30 seconds, a very small amount of alcohol travels through the membranes in your mouth and takes an express train to your brain. Researchers still don't know exactly how or why, but alcohol triggers the release of party-time chemicals such as dopamine and GABA.

Party Central

Alcohol makes its way through the bloodstream to the nucleus accumbens -- your brain's frat house -- which answers the door by churning out more of those "I love you, man" chemicals. During its cranial visit it also slows or reduces the formation of plaque -- little clumps of sticky, abnormal tissue that naturally develop deep in your brain as the years go by. A plaque-free brain is a smarter, faster brain.

For more benefits of alcohol read the rest of the story here.