health. | Craft Beer & Brewing

Health. While wine is currently perceived as being more in keeping with a healthy diet than is beer, there is now growing evidence that it’s possible that beer is actually the healthier of the two.

Trade card, c. 1900. Adding water to malt tonic produced a mixture that tasted somewhat like beer, though nonalcoholic. Many breweries made such products in response to the threat of Prohibition, well before Prohibition actually began. pike microbrewery museum, seattle, wa

Since the CBS television program 60 Minutes reported on the role of red wine in countering atherosclerosis (the buildup of fatty materials in the arteries) in 1991, the belief has grown that this is a unique attribute of that beverage. Extensive international studies have now demonstrated that the active beneficial ingredient in this respect is not resveratrol from the grape but rather ethanol and it is just as effective whether it comes from wine of any color, or beer or spirits. See ethanol.

A 1915 postcard printed in Germany—where the sophistication of the printing industry made such cards cheap and easy to produce—and shipped to the United States. pike microbrewery museum, seattle, wa

Beer is actually more substantial in nutritive terms than is wine. Beer is a significant source of B vitamins (other than thiamine) and contains a range of minerals, notably silicon, which is one of the likely reasons why moderate beer consumption reduces the risk of osteoporosis. Beer contains antioxidants, including polyphenols and ferulic acid, which (unlike many other putative antioxidants) have actually been shown to be effectively taken in by the body. See ferulic acid and polyphenols. It has been suggested that alcohol potentiates the uptake of molecules of this type into the body. Beer contains some soluble fiber and some lower molecular weight carbohydrates that may function as prebiotics (food ingredients that promote the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the lower intestine). Beer stimulates the production of the hormone gastrin, which promotes the flow of gastric juices in the stomach.

There have been several studies that speak to the health benefits of moderate beer consumption, especially in middle age and beyond. This may be both through a direct impact of beer constituents on the body and through boosting the contentment of the drinker.

Performing studies into the specific relationship between consumption of beer and bodily health is not easy, because of the impact of interfering factors. Many studies are based on patients answering doctors’ questions about their drinking habits and there is the inevitable likelihood of less than totally honest responses. The other major problem is confounding factors, with aspects of a drinkers’ life potentially being the true explanation for a perceived positive (or, indeed, negative) impact that otherwise is ascribed to beer.

As regards atherosclerosis, alcohol lowers levels of LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”) in the blood plasma and increases levels of HDL cholesterol (“good cholesterol”). Alcohol also reduces the risk of blood clotting by lessening the aggregation tendencies of blood platelets.

The relationship between risk of death and consumption of alcohol (including beer) is generally described as a U-shaped or J-shaped curve. It appears that the J-shape depicts the relationship between alcohol intake and total mortality, with the U-shape better describing that between alcohol consumption and coronary heart disease. That is, the benefits of alcohol in countering atherosclerosis extend to substantial daily consumption, whereas if all health considerations are considered, then the J-shaped curve suggests an optimum daily consumption of between one and three units if the risk of mortality is to reach its nadir. (One unit is 8g of alcohol.) It has been suggested that the frequency of drinking is also important, with moderate daily consumption being optimal. As regards the claims that wine drinking is superior to that of beer in the interests of countering atherosclerosis, studies have suggested that this is very much to do with other elements of a consumer’s lifestyle. Wine drinkers often are wealthier and have a healthier lifestyle and better health care, and they probably have a superior overall diet as compared to many beer drinkers. Wine drinkers are also less likely to smoke. Lifestyle and the rest of one’s diet, as opposed to the beer itself, have been shown to be the actual cause of the so-called beer belly.

Some of the hop constituents, e. g., xanthohumol, have been claimed also to function in countering atherosclerosis and other ailments. See xanthohumol. However, it is questionable whether most beers (even the extreme hopped products in the US craft beer sector) are hopped sufficiently for this effect to be significant. 8-prenylnaringenin from hops is the most potent estrogen yet identified; however, these substances are actually found in extremely low levels in beer. Alcohol, including in the form of beer, destroys the bacterium Helicobacter pylori that is believed to be responsible for ulceration of the stomach and duodenum, and can also cause stomach cancer. Significant purine levels in some beer may exacerbate gout.

It has been suggested that there is a barley polysaccharide in beer that promotes prolactin secretion and therefore milk production in the nursing mother. However, it may be that the relaxing impact of alcohol and hop components is the true promoting factor.

Increased blood pressure (hypertension) is twice as common in heavy drinkers as in light drinkers. Beer drinking in particular has been linked to higher blood pressure. Hypertension is the biggest risk factor for strokes. While moderate drinking (less than 2.1 ounces [60 grams] of alcohol per day) presents a slightly increased risk of stroke as compared to abstinence, it has been claimed that there is actually a reduced risk of stroke for light to moderate drinkers. It seems that it is heavy drinking (more than six drinks per day) and binge drinking that lead to an increased risk. Tyramine and histamine have been found in beers. Tyramine can cause a rise in blood pressure by constricting the vascular system and increasing the heart rate. Such amines can induce migraines and hypertensive crises.

Alcohol speeds up the rate of emptying and filling of the gall bladder—hence people with moderate daily alcohol intake develop fewer gallstones. There is a link between cirrhosis of the liver and excessive consumption of liquor, but less so for beer or wine. However, excessive intake of alcohol can cause fatty infiltrations and a swelling in the liver.

Hop polyphenols inhibit the growth of Streptococci, thereby delaying the onset of dental caries. Furthermore, dark beers contain an unidentified component that inhibits the synthesis of a polysaccharide that anchors harmful bacteria to the teeth.

Moderate drinkers displayed a reduced risk of developing non-insulin dependent diabetes.

There is no consensus agreement about the prime causative agents of hangovers. They are likely in part to be caused by an accumulation of acetaldehyde produced by the oxidation of alcohol, with the aldehyde adversely interacting with brain cells. See acetaldehyde. Headaches may also be induced by biogenic amines found in relatively small quantities in beer. Migraine attacks were more frequently associated with the consumption of sparkling and red wines and spirits than with beer.

A study of multiple sets of twins born between 1917 and 1927 revealed a J-shaped relationship between alcohol consumption and cognitive function, with moderate drinkers performing significantly better than abstainers or heavy drinkers.

Moderate drinkers are said to be more outgoing and enthusiastic about life and less stressed. They perform some tasks better after a drink; enjoy fewer incidences of depression; and fare better when elderly, including as regards cognitive function.

Light to moderate drinking (one to three alcoholic drinks of any type per day) is significantly associated with a lower risk of dementia in those aged 55 years and above. Moderate alcohol consumption may be associated with reduced incidence of macular degeneration. It stimulates appetite and promotes bowel function. Regular consumption of alcohol lowers the risk of incurring Alzheimer’s disease; in part this may relate to the silica content of beer.

Hazardous drinking (defined as those occasions when five or more drinks are consumed daily) is associated more with beer than with other types of alcoholic beverages. This correlates with younger, unmarried males.

Alcohol dehydrates the whole body (except the brain, which swells) through a diuretic impact on the kidney, hence the desirability of drinking much water before sleeping following the drinking of alcohol. Beer is more diuretic than is water and is better than water in flushing out kidneys, thereby reducing the incidence of kidney stones.

Alcohol consumption needs to be substantial for it to be a causative factor in cancer. The literature is contradictory on the relationship between alcohol consumption and cancer. Indeed it has been proposed that certain components of beer (such as pseudouridine) might even counter cancer.

As most beers are derived from barley or wheat, it is generally recommended that they be avoided by sufferers of celiac disease who react to prolamin proteins (such as hordein and gluten) and peptides derived from gluten. See gluten-free beer. However, there has been much debate about the extent to which beer actually presents a problem in this context. There is much less protein in beer than in the grist materials from which it is derived, owing to the malting and brewing processes. Indeed, many beers have as part of their grists non-prolamin- containing adjuncts such as rice, corn, and sugar.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends a maximum of one drink per day for women and two for men, a drink being a 12-ounce serving of a regular beer or 5 ounces of wine (12% ABV). And it is stated that at this level there is no association of alcohol consumption with deficiencies of either macronutrients or micronutrients and, furthermore, there is no apparent association between consuming one or two alcoholic beverages daily and obesity.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *