The health benefits of
moderate red wine drinking have been extensively studied. But several
recent studies on beer suggest that it may be as, or even more, healthy
if consumed in moderation.
Of course, both contain alcohol and there is an abundant body of evidence that it can have a variety of beneficial effects on health.
Alcohol consumption has been associated with higher levels of HDL cholesterol (the good type).
Drinkers also had lower levels of fibrinogen, a protein that promotes blood clots that can lead to stroke and thrombosis.
Overall, several studies (such as one undertaken at the Institute of Epidemiology at the University of Muenster), suggest moderate drinking of beer helps reduce the risk of coronary disease.
Alcohol lowers insulin levels, which aids in reducing the risk of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.
But the benefits, according to varied studies, derive from more than just the alcohol. A
Dutch study from the TNO Nutrition and Food Research Institute found a
30% increase in vitamin B6 among beer drinkers. Red wine and gin drinkers gained only half the increase.
In the July 2001 issue of
the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a study attributed the
healthful effects of beer drinking to its folate levels. In studies, folates appear to help combat cardiovascular disease.
A study undertaken at Harvard, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2001
concluded that moderate consumption helped preserve the mental abilities of older women.
A recent study at Tufts
University suggests that beer consumption, whether light or dark, can
protect bone mineral density. Thinning of the leg bones is often a
problem for the elderly.
But what about the potential risks of alcohol?
Researchers are unanimous that pregnant or nursing women should not drink alcohol, since it can lead to Fetal Alcohol
Syndrome. Alcohol can pass through the umbilical cord and through
breast milk and affect the brain.
Weight gain can be an
issue. Beer has no fat, but alcohol and the residual sugars in beer do
contain calories. A glass of beer contains between 150-450 calories,
depending on size and type. But, that amount is lower by volume than
apple juice or a similar glass of red wine.
The key, of course, is moderation. Excessive drinking has long been known to cause liver damage, and can stress kidneys.
Beer has no caffeine but studies show that moderate coffee drinking helps alertness, a benefit
at work and in driving. Heavy drinking obviously leads to less mental
acuity and can increase the risk of traffic accidents as well as those
around the home.
Amount is everything.
Moderate consumption can be relaxing, reducing stress, a factor in
several health issues. Excess drinking leads to drawbacks that outweigh
Benefits derive from the
alcohol, moderate amounts of B vitamins, helpful amounts of magnesium
and selenium and other components. And beer is 90% water, which along
with the alcohol helps flush kidneys. The brewing process and the
alcohol also help kill bacteria in the water.
Naturally, no single
article or study should be taken as definitive. But, limited to one to
two 12-oz glasses per day, most studies suggest the benefits far
outweigh the risks.
Review of Beer Brewing Made Easy
Learn Bartending at Home
The Country and London Brewer - 1736