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This St. Patrick's Day, raise a beer to good health, literally

by Caroline Fontein


This St. Patrick’s Day, raise a beer to good health, literally

by Caroline Fontein

Need help recovering from a long workout? Does your hair feel brittle? How’s your cholesterol? Sounds like you could use a beer, and not just because you’ve had a long day. (It’s good for that too.) Beer is gaining worldwide recognition as the new favorite health beverage of choice.

Maybe there’s some truth to the old, “Guinness is good for you,” slogan.

With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, we decided it’s the perfect time to see what all the buzz is about. From current events to health-related studies, we went on an investigative mission to determine what science is saying about this crafty brew. Can there really be health benefits to drinking beer?

If Olympic gold medals mean anything to you, then the answer could be as clear as a filtered blonde ale. Just ask German Olympic ski team doctor Johannes Scherr. Nearly all of his athletes drink nonalcoholic beer during training because it allegedly reduces inflammation and helps them recover faster and train harder.

German brewery Krombacher supplied 3,500 liters (about 1,000 gallons) of nonalcoholic beer to the athletes’ village in Pyeongchang, South Korea, so that German athletes could enjoy it during the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

Apparently, it worked. Germany tied with Norway for the most gold medals with 14, including winning gold in both the Nordic combined (cross-country skiing and ski jumping) and biathlon (cross-country skiing and rifle shooting) events.

Men’s Mo Complete

Before we get too into the science of these suds, it’s important to note that while occasionally cracking open a cold one could be good for your health, binge drinking is not. There are many health risks linked to excessive drinking. The key word here is moderate with ideal alcohol consumption between 20 to 39.9 grams per day (approximately 1.43 to 2.85 drink equivalent). Unfortunately, the benefits of beer drinking aren’t multiplied with increased consumption (darn).

Yet in moderation, many studies suggest that drinking beer may be linked to good cardiovascular health, longevity, and a decreased risk of osteoporosis and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Some even suggest its potential to reduce cancer risk.

Not just empty calories

Despite the common misconception, beer isn’t just an empty calorie detour from your otherwise healthy diet. Beer is rich in nutrients such as carbohydrates, amino acids, minerals, vitamins, and complex plant-derived compounds called polyphenols.

You may also be surprised to find that Guinness, despite its dark and heavy appearance, is not a high-calorie beer compared to other big players in the industry. A 12-ounce serving of Guinness sets you back about 125 calories, less in comparison to 145 calories in a Budweiser, 148 calories in a Coors, and 166 calories in a Heineken.

Now, back to the polyphenols. Studies suggest that the main health benefits in beer stem from these plant-derived compounds, also found in wine. Beer has about 50 polyphenols found in the hops and malt used to make it. Polyphenols can have antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, estrogenic, and even antiviral properties.

Here’s what they can do:

Heart health

Most people think that wine is good for your heart. Beer may be just as beneficial if not more, especially if you’re drinking a craft brew.

A new study by Dr. Michael McCullough, Ph.D., a professor at Polytechnic State University in California, found that craft beer, contains more “good things.”

Craft beer isn’t always pasteurized or filtered like mass market beers, leaving more of the good stuff behind like high levels of B3 (also known as niacin) from brewer’s yeast. Vitamin B3 can help your body convert carbohydrates into glucose that the body can use for fuel. This in turn may help promote healthy cholesterol levels and cardiovascular health.

The study also pointed out that beer is often left off the healthy list because of the typically unhealthy foods associated with it. It might be these and not beer itself that are the source of the so-called beer belly.

Keep calm and drink beer

No really, it may help with inflammation. Studies suggest that phenols are behind beer’s anti-inflammatory effects. Inflammation in the body is the underlying cause behind many diseases. According to a study by Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, consuming hops in beer can help reduce inflammation.

This is also why Scherr integrated nonalcoholic beer into the 2018 German Olympic ski team’s training regimen. In 2009, he conducted a double-blind study, where he gave Munich Marathon runners nonalcoholic beer every day for three weeks before and two weeks after the race. He found that these runners suffered significantly less inflammation and fewer upper respiratory infections after the race than runners who had been given a placebo.

Good to the bone (and hair)

We all have that one friend with the perfect hair, perfect nails, perfect everything. Maybe it’s because she has her daily dose of silicon – we’re talking beer.
While calcium and vitamin D are known to support bone health. Silicon may also play an essential role in bone formation and maintenance. Beer is a prime source as silicon is found in the barley and hops used to make it.

Many studies suggest that an increased intake of bioavailable silicon is associated with increased mineral density and bone strength. Studies have found that moderate consumption of beer was associated with increased bone mineral density in men and postmenopausal women.

Silicon has also been suggested to help promote the structural integrity of nails, hair, skin, and overall collagen synthesis.

Brewing thoughts

A few too many beers might make you forgetful, like that one night. But in moderation, science suggests that beer could be good for your mental well-being. In addition to bone health, silicon has also been attributed to cognitive health.

Studies suggest that light to moderate alcohol consumption is thought to have protective effects against dementia late in life. Other studies indicate that beer may have an additional benefit for preventing Alzheimer’s disease due to its silicon content. Silicon has been shown to help prevent the absorption of aluminum, one of the likely contributing factors to this disease.

A study by Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine found that moderate drinkers were 23 percent less likely to develop cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia than those who abstained from alcohol.

Healthy Beers: Fact or Fiction?

Put on your beer goggles

These typically mean anything but good vision. However, the antioxidants in beer might tell a different story. Drinking beer, especially ales and stouts (this includes Guinness), may reduce the risk of mitochondrial damage.

A study by researchers at the University of Western Ontario found that daily consumption of alcohol resulted in a decreased risk of cataract and atherosclerosis as a result of antioxidants due to the polyphenols in beer.

Aids in cancer prevention? Maybe.

Through our research, we found numerous studies that reported some interesting findings when it comes to the ingredients in beer and their potential applicability for cancer prevention. We wanted to share, and let you decide.

According to research, xanthohumol, one of beer’s phenolic compounds, has been characterized as a broad spectrum cancer chemopreventive agent in in vitro studies. Chemopreventive agents are used to inhibit, delay, or reverse carcinogens. In short, it might inhibit tumor growth in the early stages.

Aside from Xanthohumol, 8-prenylnaringenin, also found in beer, is suggested to have potential cancer chemopreventitive activities and antiangiogenic (another therapy that essentially cuts off the blood supply to cancer cells) properties. Research suggests that together, these prenylflavonoids from hops may have potential application in cancer prevention programs.

Lager for longevity

Could the key to longevity be living in your refrigerator? According to The 90+ Study, people who drank moderate amounts of alcohol or coffee lived longer than those who abstained. In fact, when it comes to making it past your 90s, alcohol even beat out exercise, according to the study.

Led by California neurologist Claudia Kawas, the study was initiated in 2003, and tracked 1,700 nonagenarians to determine factors associated with longevity including food, activities, and lifestyle habits. Researchers found that those who drank about two glasses of beer or wine a day were 18 percent less likely to experience a premature death than those who did not, according to an article in the “San Diego Union-Tribune.”

Participants who exercised 15 to 45 minutes a day cut their risk by 11 percent. These findings were presented at the 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science annual conference in Austin, Texas, in February.

Another study conducted by a psychologist at the University of Texas found that moderate drinking is associated with reduced mortality rates. The study looked at 1,824 subjects between the ages of 55 and 65 to determine all-cause mortality over 20 years. Moderate alcohol consumption continued to showed a beneficial effect in mortality risk.

Message in a bottle (of beer)

Is beer healthy? The verdict may still be out, but studies suggest there could be a number of health benefits to be had from drinking this beloved beverage. Maybe the proof is in the pudding or should we say pint glass.

As Thomas Jefferson, our Founding Father and the third President of the United States said, “Beer, if drunk in moderation, softens the temper, cheers the spirit, and promotes health.”

Now that’s at least something we can all cheers to come March 17.

Posted on March 16, 2018

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Caroline Fontein