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Drinking Beer Could Provide Health Benefits

Marching bands, bagpipers and leprechauns join parades in honor of St. Patrick's Day in cities throughout the United States.

New York city holds the world's largest St. Patrick's parade. People of Irish descent, as well as those who on this day wish to be, celebrate the day.

After the parades end, and in some cases before they even begin, both Irish-Americans and the honorary Irish celebrate by drinking plenty of beer, green beer.

"You can't drink all day if you don't start in the morning," says Jose, a bar patron.

Binge drinking is never healthy, but beer itself has some nutritional value -- B vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, much like wine.But wine naturally contains resveratrol, an antioxidant that might protect against cancer. And so red wine has generated a lot of interest in recent years.

Studies show wine drinkers have significantly lower mortality from both coronary heart disease and cancer than non-wine drinkers.

Some bioengineering students at Rice University in Houston, Texas, decided to see if they could create a beer that contains resveratrol. They call it "bio-beer."

The students genetically modified brewers yeast to contain resveratrol.
Student David Ouyand explains, "We're giving the health benefits from the the wine and cheese crowd to the 'Joe Sixpacks' [beer drinkers] of America," he said.

Student Sarah Duke, clarifies the mission, "We're not encouraging people to go out and drink alcohol. We're just encouraging someone who is already drinking to drink something a little healthier," she said.

The idea started out as a joke, but then they started working in earnest. The students say people are always asking about their progress.

Student Taylor Stevenson says the formula is already in high demand, "Is it ready, what's it going to taste like where can I get it. We've had personal e-mails requesting our strain of yeast and we've had to say, 'we're not there yet,'" she said.

BioBeer is not available commercially, and if it ever is marketed in the U.S., it is likely it will first need the approval of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because the yeast is genetically modified.

Until then, beer drinkers will have to be satisfied with the nutrients that beer contains naturally. Although that is probably not what these beer drinkers are concerned about at all.