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.