Have a drink for your kidneys' sake

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BOSTON

Here's one more reason to enjoy wine and beer--in moderation, of course. These drinks apparently impede the formation of kidney stones.

Almost 12 percent of Americans develop these painful mineral deposits at some point in their lives, sometimes requiring surgery. Doctors' advice to avoid them is simple: Drink more fluids. But which fluids?

Comparing diet and living habits among 45,000 male health professionals, researchers at Harvard University found that a daily eight-ounce glass of beer reduced the risk of stone formation by 21 percent. The same amount of wine--two four-ounce glasses--lowered the risk by 39 percent.

Caffeine drinks were also helpful, but less so: Eight ounces of coffee a day, about one mug, cut the risk by 10 percent, eight ounces of tea by 14 percent.

Researchers believe that most stones form when body salts are so highly concentrated in the urine that they crystallize in the kidney. "Both alcohol and caffeine hinder the kidneys' ability to concentrate salts in the urine," says kidney specialist Gary Curhan, the study's lead author, "so that may explain their apparent benefits."

This isn't to say you should live on espresso and cabernet alone. Any liquid helps. Even an eight-ounce glass of tap water a day reduces the risk of stones by 4 percent. And there's no chance you'll end up tipsy or jittery.

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By Benedict Carey and Michael Mason

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