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A drink before dinner may be good for the cardiovascular system, but more than that could burden an otherwise health-conscious drinker with chronic ailments including heart and liver disease, researchers warned Tuesday.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation showed social drinking can bring about a marked release of bodily chemicals called oxidants, capable of damaging the tissues of major organs including the heart, liver and brain.

"We looked at the direct effects of alcohol itself and demonstrated that alcohol is a pro-oxidant even when blood alcohol levels are in a range that is often attained socially," said Dr. Garret FitzGerald, senior study author and chairman of pharmacology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Researchers also found patients with chronic liver disease could suppress their oxidant stress levels by roughly 50 percent if given 2,500 mg of the antioxidant vitamin C for 10 days.

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