Researchers have long known that people who drink moderate amounts of alcohol appear to be less likely to develop heart disease. Much of the benefit has been attributed to the higher levels of HDL cholesterol — often referred to as the “good” cholesterol — found in moderate drinkers. The lipoproteins in this kind of cholesterol are believed to help the body fight off heart disease.

But a new study suggests that alcohol may play another role in cholesterol and health. Moderate drinking may encourage the formation of larger lipoprotein particles in both HDL and LDL, the “bad” cholesterol associated with cardiovascular problems.

Larger particles in HDL, the researchers wrote in the online edition of The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, have recently been found to appear better at fighting off heart disease. And larger particles in LDL appear to be less effective at causing it. In that case, the higher the number of large LDL particles, and the lower the number of small ones, the better the chance of avoiding heart disease.

If this could be sold as a pill, it would be getting a lot more attention.