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Why Beer, Like Red Wine, Can Be Good for Your Health

June 23, 2020

Red wine, the darling of the Mediterranean Diet and countless studies linking it to good heart health, is not the only type of alcohol that can be good for you when used in moderation.

Beer, better known for its symbol of empty-calorie indulgence — the Beer Belly — surprisingly offers some of the same health benefits as red wine. It’s summer, you’re free from COVID-19 self-isolation, and it’s time to enjoy yourself. If that includes moderate consumption of beer, make sure you know what that means.

Moderate consumption, as defined by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, is one drink per day for women and up to two drinks a day for men. A drink is 12 ounces of beer (5 percent alcohol) or 5 ounces of wine (12 percent alcohol). To know exactly what you are consuming, use this drink calculator from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Now here are some potential health benefits from the moderate consumption of beer:

Same Amount of Antioxidants as Wine!

Empty calories? Wine is credited as source of antioxidants, but beer is its unsung equal. Beer’s antioxidants, sourced from  flavonoids in barley and hops, are just different from wine’s grape-powered antioxidants. Beer has higher levels of protein, vitamin B, phosphorus, folate and niacin. Beer also contains fiber, iron, calcium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium and silicon.

Lower Cholesterol

A four-month study in 2018 of people who were either overweight or obese reported that low to moderate beer consumption increased the antioxidant properties of HDL (good) cholesterol and also helped remove cholesterol, which could prevent lipid deposits on blood vessel walls. (The test subjects did not have existing risk factors of cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.)

From the study: “Our results based on a 12-week prospective study provide evidence that moderate intake of beer (traditional and alcohol-free) does not exert vascular detrimental effects nor increases body weight in obese healthy individuals.”

Reduced Diabetes Risk

A 2017 cohort study using data from the 2007-08 Danish Health Examination Survey, with more than 76,000 participants, linked moderate alcohol consumption with 58 percent lower risk of diabetes for women and 43 percent lower risk for men.

From the study: “Our findings suggest that alcohol drinking frequency is associated with risk of diabetes and that consumption of alcohol over 3-4 days per week is associated with the lowest risk of diabetes, even after taking average weekly alcohol consumption into account.”

Lower Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

A review published in 2016 suggested beer has a similar effect as wine in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. And more. . . .

From the study:  “Although specific data on beer are not conclusive, observational studies seem to indicate that low-moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a reduced risk of developing neurodegenerative disease.”

Lower Risk of Kidney Stones in Men

Beer lowers the risk of kidney stones in men, according to research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 1999. How? It’s assumed an increase in fluids, and increased urination, might help maintain proper kidney function.

From the study: “Each bottle of beer consumed per day was estimated to reduce risk by 40 percent.”

Better Bone Health in Older People

A 2007 cohort study in Osteoporosis International of almost 6,000 American adults 65 years old and older found that moderate beer drinkers had a 20 percent lower risk than non-drinkers of a hip fracture.

Why? Beer is one of the few significant dietary sources of silicon, produced through the processing of barley and hops.

From the study: “Among older adults, moderate alcohol consumption has a U-shaped relationship with risk of hip fracture, but a graded positive relationship with bone mineral density at the hip.”

Why Craft Beer Might Be Better

In a 2016 study in the Journal of Wine Economics, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes were lower among moderate drinkers who consumed craft beer instead of mass-produced beer and other forms of alcohol. The study analyzed shopping behavior and health outcomes of 30,000-plus Americans. (California Polytechnic State University, in 2018, linked craft beer’s superiority to being less pasteurized than mass-marketed beer.)

From the study: “The results indicate that most alcohol types could have protective effects against heart disease and diabetes, with the strongest effects occurring for craft beer and wine.”

Remember, excessive use of alcohol can increase your risk of cancer, liver disease, high blood pressure, heart disease, alcohol use disorder and other health problems. If you do not drink alcohol, the Dietary Guidelines does not recommend you start.

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