Benefits of Beer

Overview

Beer is an alcoholic beverage made by converting starch into sugar, fermenting it with a brewer’s yeast, and then flavoring it. Beer is a widely enjoyed beverage that increasing amounts of research suggest can be beneficial to health. The key to attaining these benefits, however,is consuming alcohol, including beer, in moderation (two 12-ounce drinks a day for men and one a day for women). Drinking too much alcohol can have the opposite effect, increasing the risk of liver disease, high blood pressure, weight gain, and some cancers.

Beer has a complex nutritional profile due to its ingredients. The yeast used to make beer is rich in nutrients such as magnesium, selenium, potassium, phosphorus, and B vitamins. One 12-ounce beer contains 3 percent of daily-recommended B12 and 12.5 percent of daily-recommended B6 vitamins. Unlike wine, beer also contains soluble fiber from barley, which can help to lower bad cholesterol levels. Darker beers typically contain the most fiber. The presence of silicon in beer has also been linked to stronger bones, although the effects may be the opposite in heavy drinkers.

Much of the discussion surrounding beer has focused on its possible benefits for heart health.Beer and alcohol in general have been linked to a decreased risk of heart disease when consumed in moderation. Beer contains antioxidants called polyphenols, which come from the malt and hops used to make it. Polyphenols can help to prevent blood clotting and keep blood flowing freely through blood vessels. Preventing blood clots is important in maintaining heart health and preventing stroke, heart attack, and pulmonary embolism (blockage of the main artery of the lung).

Other research suggests that moderate consumption of beer is associated with a decreased risk of gallstones, kidney stones, stroke, and cognitive decline; one study found that low alcohol beer may have cancer-fighting properties.There is also some evidence that alcohol can increase insulin sensitivity and may reduce the risk of diabetes.

Medical professionals do not recommend drinking alcohol to prevent heart disease or other medical conditions. Despite some evidence that beer may be beneficial to health, more research is needed to understand the relationship between alcohol and disease risk. Many of the supposed benefits of alcohol can also be achieved by eating well, exercising, and living a healthy lifestyle. It is also important to recognize the risks associated with drinking any type of alcohol. Even moderate alcohol consumption is related to increased risk of breast cancer, violence, drowning, and accidental injuries. People who have existing medical conditions should talk to a doctor about the risks and benefits of drinking alcohol. Pregnant women should avoid drinking all alcohol.

More Information

CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm

Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alcohol/SC00024

Medline Plus: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/alcohol.html

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beer