The next time you pour yourself a Narragansett beer or two, you should know that there are a variety of health benefits that some may say are a myth. Dr. Charlie Bamforth of U.C. Davis reveals some of beers health benefits and makes a case that beer is healthier than wine. A few of the key points explained below are moderate beer consumption can reduce ones' risk of cardiovascular disease, blood clotting, gallstones, diabetes, dementia, kidney stones. And you can all drink up without settling for light beer because the beer belly is actually a myth.
There has been huge interest in the potential benefits of moderate consumption of alcohol since the airing in 1991 of the television program Sixty Minutes (watch The French Paradox) in which the first strong touting was made for taking a glass or two of red wine daily to counter the risk of atherosclerosis (blocking of the arteries by cholesterol). Since then the wine lobby has never fought shy of using this platform to advocate for their product, claiming that the active ingredient is a molecule called resveratrol that originates in the grapes.
A huge amount of data now exists to show that the key component that counters atherosclerosis is alcohol itselfand it can come from whichever is your favorite tipple. You would need to drink dozens of bottles of wine every day to get enough resveratrol to have any impact.
Moderation Is Key
One or two glasses of regular strength beer daily should be the goal. The frequency is as relevant as the quantity. And no storing up your weeks allocation for the weekend: that is binging.
Beer Is Healthier Than Wine
Beer contains more nutrients than does wine. Beer contains some soluble fiber, some B vitamins (notably folate, visit Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Folate), a range of antioxidants and it is also the richest source of silicon; silicon in the diet may help in countering osteoporosis. Wine contains more antioxidants than beer but do they actually get into the body and reach the parts where need to work? There are doubts about thatbut it has been shown that the antioxidant ferulic acid is taken up from beer into the body (more efficiently than from the tomato).
Some normal components of beer may induce symptoms in sensitive individuals, the most notable example being proteins claimed to be deleterious for sufferers of celiac disease. Medical advice is for such patients to avoid foodstuffs derived from wheat and barley. Hence there is interest in beers that are based on sorghum. However it is by no means proven that traditional beers contain sensitive proteins: these substances are changed enormously in processing and may no longer be a problem in any beer. However most folks err on the side of caution.
How It Works
* Alcoholic beverages may beneficially impact the body both by directly affecting bodily functions or indirectly by boosting morale and perceived well-being.
* We have already peeked at atherosclerosis, alcohol favorably impacting the balance of "good" versus "bad" cholesterol and also reducing the risk of blood clotting.
* Drinking has been linked to increased blood pressure; however it has been reported that the blood pressure of non-drinkers is higher than in those consuming 10-20g alcohol per day. Hypertension is a significant risk factor for stroke but it has been observed that there is a reduced risk of stroke for light to moderate drinkers and it is only when drinking is heavy (>6 drinks per day) or at a binge level that the risk of stroke is significant.
* The bacterium that induces stomach and duodenal ulcers (visit Helicobacter pylori) is inhibited by alcohol so there are reports of reduced chance of ulcers through moderate drinking.
* The risk of pancreatitis is increased in heavy drinkers.
* Those consuming alcohol in moderation and especially daily-develop fewer gallstones.
* Moderate drinking reduces the risk of developing diabetes.
* Hangovers (visit Alcohol Hangover) are likely caused by a buildup of a breakdown product of alcohol.
* Migraines may also be induced by biogenic amines found in relatively small quantities in beer but in more significant quantities in certain wines and cheeses.
* Moderate drinking is associated with a reduced risk of dementia and improved cognitive function in the elderly.
* Beer is rather more diuretic than is water and fresh beer makes you pee more than does stale beer! Some beers should be avoided by sufferers of gout because they can contain significant quantities of purines. Beer is superior to water in "flushing out" the kidneys, thereby lessening the risk of kidney stones.
* The literature is contradictory on the link between alcohol consumption and cancer. For every study that draws a correlation between alcohol consumption and a particular form of cancer, there is another that finds either no link or even a protective impact of moderate drinking. There have been several recent reports of beer components that may provide anti-cancer value to beer but I think we need to be very careful about this.
* Finally, the beer belly is a complete myth (visit BBC News: Why the Beer Belly May Be a Myth) The main source of calories in any alcoholic beverage is the alcohol. Take in too many and you know the consequences'whether it is from wine or beer! And if you compare a beer with a slice of lemon meringue pie with perhaps twice as many calories then it is a no-brainer!
Dr. Charlie Bamforth is Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Malting & Brewing Sciences at UCD. He has been part of the brewing industry for more than thirty-one years. He is formerly Deputy Director-General of Brewing Research International and Research Manager and Quality Assurance Manager of Bass Brewers. He is a Special Professor in the School of Biosciences at the University of Nottingham, England and was previously Visiting Professor of Brewing at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland. Charlie is a Fellow of the Institute of Brewing & Distilling, Fellow of the Society of Biology and Fellow of the International Academy of Food Science and Technology. Bamforth is Editor in Chief of the Journal of the American Society of Brewing Chemists, is on the editorial boards of several other journals and has published innumerable papers, articles and books on beer and brewing.