Research indicates that beer does have health benefits when consumed in moderation; that is, one 355 ml (12 oz) beer per day for women and two for men.
Heavy drinking increases the risk of liver damage (cirrhosis) and heart problems and can definitely add increased weight, since one 355 ml of regular beer has about 150 calories and light beer has about 100.
Just in time for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, here are a few healthy benefits of moderate beer drinking.
Good Source of Vitamin B6
An 1999 study from Holland [Van der Gaag et al] found that healthy beer-drinking men between the ages of 44-59 had 30% higher levels of vitamin B6 in their blood than their non-drinking counterparts, and twice as much as wine drinkers.
An 1998 study from Finland [Hirvonen T et al] found that beer drinking lowered smoking men’s risk of developing kidney stones by 40% for each bottle of beer consumed., in moderation. The hops in beer may help slow leeching of calcium from bones; calcium that could end up in the kidneys as stones.
A beer a day may help keep Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia at bay, researchers say.
A 2005 study of 11,000 older women [Stapher et al] found that those who consumed about one drink a day lowered their risk of mental decline by as much as 20 % compared to non-drinkers and scored as about 18 months “younger,” on average, on tests of mental skills than the non-drinkers.
A 2009 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at the bone mineral density (BMD) in 1182 men and 1289 postmenopausal women and 248 premenopausal women from the Framingham Offspring group, aged 29-86 years old. The study found that older men and women who drank one or two alcoholic drinks per day had higher bone density, with the greatest benefits found in those who favored beer or wine. However, drinking more than two drinks per day was linked to increased risk for fractures.
The best bone-building benefits are found in pale ale, as these beers are richest in silicon, which is linked to better bone health.
A 2011 met study by Constanzo et al which combined data from 16 earlier studies (involving more than 200,000 people) found that people that drank a little more than a pint of beer (475 ml) per day were 30% less likely than non-drinkers to suffer from cardiovascular events like strokes, heart attacks and heart disease. Researchers believe that the main benefit may be due to beer’s high polyphenol content, a potent anti-oxidant. A beer or two a day can also help raise levels of HDL, the so-called “good” cholesterol that helps keep arteries from getting clogged.
The down side is that the research also found that drinking four or more beer (or wine) per day actually puts your heart at risk.
Protective against Diabetes
A 2011 study of more than 38,000 middle-aged men [Joosten et al] drawn from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, found that when those who only drank occasionally raised their intake to one to two beers (or other drinks) daily, their risk of developing type 2 diabetes dropped by 25 %. The researchers found that alcohol increases insulin sensitivity, thus helping protect against diabetes.
Lower Blood Pressure
A 2002 study of 70,000 women between the ages of 25 to 40 drawn from the Nurses Health Study II found that moderate beer drinkers were less likely to develop high blood pressure (hypertension) which is a major risk factor for heart attack than women who drank wine or hard alcohol.
Having a beer or two a day may lower your risk of heart attack and stroke, increase your insulin sensitivity, lower your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, dementia, kidney stones and hip fractures and provide a good source of Vitamin B6. Besides, there’s nothing like a cold beer with some good friends or family and cheering for your favourite hockey team. Enjoy the Stanley Cup Playoffs!
Costanzo S e al “Wine, beer or spirit drinking in relation to fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular events: a meta-analysis”, Nov 2011, Eur J of Epidemiology
Hirvonen T, Pietinen P, Viranen M et al, “Nutrient Intake and Use of Beverages and the Risk of Kidney Stones among Male Smokers”, 1998, Amer J of Epidemiology 150(2), 187-194
Joosten MM, Chuive SE, Makamal KJ et al “Changes in Alcohol Consumption and Subsequent Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in Men”, Diabetes, 2011, Vol 60, pg 74-79
Stampher MJ, Kang JH Chen J et al, “Effects of moderate Alcohol Consumption on Cognitive Function in Women” N Engl J of Med, 2005, 352:245-253
Thadhani R, Camargo CA, Stamper MJ et al, Prospective Study of Moderate Alcohol Consumption and Risk of Hypertension in Young Women, J Amer Med Assoc, 2002, Vol 162(5): 569-574
Tucker KL, Jugdoahsign R, Powel JJ et al, Am J Clin Nutr April 2009;vol. 89 (4), pg. 1188-1196
Van der Gaag MS, Ubbink JB, Sillanaukee P et al, “Effect of Consumpition of red wine, spirits and beer on serum homcysteine, Research Letters, The Lancet, Vol 355, pg 1522