The Science of Beer
Have a Brewski!
10 Ways Beer Can Help Your Health
1. Keep your ticker ticking.
Wine usually gets all the credit as the booze that helps cut back your cardiovascular disease risk, but beer may be just as heart-healthy of a beverage. Italian researchers found that moderate beer drinkers had a 42 percent lower risk of heart disease compared to non-drinkers. For maximum protection, keep your consumption to one pint—at around 5 percent alcohol by volume—a day, the researchers say.
2. Think like a genius.
Knocking back a beer or two won’t make you smarter, but it could boost your creativity, according to a study in the journalConsciousness and Cognition. When 40 men watched a movie while completing verbal puzzles, beer-buzzed guys with a blood alcohol content of .075 solved the problems a few seconds faster than their sober counterparts.
3. Prevent type 2 diabetes.
Dutch researchers analyzed 38,000 male health professionals and found that when men who weren’t big boozers began drinking moderately over 4 years, they were significantly less likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Increased alcohol consumption over time didn’t lower the risk in men who already had a couple drinks a day, so moderation is the key word here. Stick to a beer or two at happy hour tonight.
4. Be kind to your kidneys.
Cheers to never having to pass a kidney stone again—or if you’re lucky, ever. Researchers in Finland found that each bottle of beer a man drinks daily lowers his risk of developing kidney stones by 40 percent. The researchers can’t exactly explain the link, but speculate that a high fluid intake not only makes for an excessive number of trips to the bathroom, but could also keep kidneys functioning properly. Additionally, the researchers say the hops in beer may be responsible for the correlation, helping to slow the release of calcium from bone—which could get reabsorbed by the kidneys as painful stones.
5. Recover faster.
Move over, Gatorade—a heady brew could also aid in workout recovery, according to a Spanish study. Researchers asked students to exercise until their body temperature reached 104 degrees, and then had them rehydrate with beer or water. As it turns out, people who had a post-workout pint were slightly more hydrated than those who had H2O.
6. Get an instant confidence boost.
Beer goggles? Try beer mirror. British researchers found the more drinks people consumed, the more attractive they found themselves. In a second study, the researchers asked participants who had consumed either a real or fake alcoholic drink to give a speech. When asked to evaluate how good-looking, smart, and funny they felt they were during their talk, people who thought they imbibed gave themselves more positive self-evaluations—regardless of whether or not they were actually buzzed.
7. See clearer.
A Guinness a day could keep the eye doctor away. Canadian researchers found that one daily beer—especially a lager or stout—increases antioxidant activity that can stop cataracts from forming in the eyes. The kicker: The scientists found an opposite effect in participants who had three or more drinks a day.
8. Lower your blood pressure.
High blood pressure can be responsible for a range of health problems, but beer can lower your risk for hypertension, research suggests. In one study, Harvard researchers found that moderate beer drinkers are less likely to develop high BP than those who sip wine or cocktails.
9. Fight off infection.
Having one or two drinks a day might boost your immune system and fight infections, according to an Oregon Health & Science University study. Scientists vaccinated monkeys against smallpox, then gave some of the primates access to alcohol while others could drink sugar water. The monkeys who drank moderately had better vaccine responses than those who consumed the sweet stuff. But the animals that drank heavily—you may now imagine a totally tanked chimp—had less of a response to the vaccine than those who kept their habit under control.
10. Prevent a fracture.
Nasty breaks from drunken debauchery aside, a couple beers a day could actually strengthen your bones, according to a study at Tufts University. Guys who stuck to one or two brews had up to 4.5 percent greater bone density than non-drinkers—but more than two beers was associated with up to 5.2 percent lowerdensity, according to the study.
The Truth About Beer
By Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD
Reviewed by Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
What’s in Beer?
Beer is typically made from water, grain, hops, and yeast.
Malted barley is the most commonly used grain. It’s usually flavored with hops to add bitterness to balance the sweetness of the malt. The hops also act as a preservative. Finally, brewer’s yeast ferments the brew into alcohol.
Some brews are made with other grains: wheat, maize, or rice instead of barley. And some use fruits, herbs, and spices to create unique-tasting beers.
Beer’s alcohol content ranges from less than 3% to 40% depending on the beer style and recipe. Most pale lagers are around 4% to 6% alcohol.
Benefits, in Moderation
If you drink it in moderation, beer (just like wine, spirits, or other alcohol) can have health benefits.
“The strongest evidence suggests alcohol of any kind can increase good cholesterol,” says Harvard researcher Eric Rimm.
Limit yourself to no more than one drink per day for women, two drinks per day for men. One drink is 12 ounces of regular beer.
The hops, yeast, and grains in beer contribute carbohydrates, a small amount of B vitamins, and potassium. But don’t plan to get your nutrients from beer, or to drink beer or any other alcoholic beverage for health benefits. And if you don’t drink now, most health experts don’t recommend that you start.
Drinking too much beer, or any other type of alcohol, is bad for you.
“Heavy alcohol consumption wipes out any health benefit and increases risk of liver cancer, cirrhosis, alcoholism, and obesity,” Rimm says. “Heavy or binge drinkers may have increased risk of stroke, chronic hypertension, weight gain, colon and breast cancer.”
Reviewed on August 18, 2014
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