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Beer+Health
by Gregg Glaser

“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

So said Benjamin Franklin. Happy? Certainly. But healthy as well? Maybe. Although wines have gotten most of the attention, many studies examining the beneficial effects of alcohol on the human body have focused entirely on beer. Here’s some information beer drinkers may find comforting.


BEER OR WINE?

In 2000, a study led by Dutch researcher, Dr. Henk Hendricks of the TNO Nutrition and Food Research Institute, investigated the widely held belief that drinking red wine was better for the heart than drinking beer. The study showed that beer contains vitamin B6, which prevents the body from building up high levels of homocysteine, a chemical linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Homocysteine levels did not increase in the men who drank beer, but rose for those who drank wine or spirits. The beer drinkers showed a 30 percent increase in B6 in their blood plasma.

A similar Danish study sponsored by the Danish Brewers Association reported that beer works as well as wine in preventing heart disease.

“It cannot be proved that there is any health advantage to drinking red wine, for example, rather than beer,” according to the study by the Institute of Epidemiology and Social Medicine at the University of Muenster. “Studies indicate that light to moderate alcohol consumption from beer, wine or spirits is associated with a reduction in all-cause mortality, owing primarily to a decreased risk of coronary heart disease.”

A 2004 study by researchers at the University of Western Ontario found that a drink of either beer or wine provided equal increases in plasma antioxidant activity, which helps prevent heart disease, cancer, diabetes and cataracts.

“We were very surprised one drink of beer or stout contributed an equal amount of antioxidant benefit as wine, especially since red wine contains about 20 times the amount of polyphenols as beer,” said biochemist John Trevithick.

Bob Lachky, executive VP, global industry development for Anheuser-Busch, Inc., stated: “For the past 20 years, doctors and researchers have been reporting on the health effects of adults who drink moderately compared to those who do not drink at all. It is a myth that only red wine delivers these health benefits. All of this is good news for beer — which is America’s favorite beverage of moderation.”

BEER, WINE OR…COCKTAILS?

Craig Purser, president of a national beer wholesaler association named NBWA, said that too often adult consumers will choose red wine because they’ve heard of its heart benefits or a cocktail because they think it’s lower in carbs, but that’s not entirely correct. Purser stated: “Research suggests that beer has just as many benefits as wine and is often a much lower calorie and carbohydrate choice when compared to cocktails. For example, a light beer may have 95-100 cocktails and as little as 6 carbohydrates, whereas a gin or vodka and tonic may have 200 calories and 12 carbs.”

FOLATE & B-VITAMINS

In the July 2001 issue of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a report stated: “Moderate beer consumption may help to maintain the total homocysteine levels in the normal range due to high folate content.” The study also backed up a previous study that found that drinking beer regularly for three weeks led to a 30 percent increase in B6 levels.

A TEXAS STUDY

At the conclusion of a 2001 study at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School by Dr. Margo A. Denke, she wrote that she believes beer is a more beneficial drink than spirits because beer contains many more nutrients per serving, such as protein and B-vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, calcium and iron. Dr. Denke found that one to two beers a day provides 14 percent of dietary calories, 11 percent of dietary protein, 12 percent of dietary carbohydrates, 9 percent of dietary phosphorus, 7 percent of dietary riboflavin and 5 percent of dietary niacin.

Dr. Denke stated that beer has similar amounts of polyphenols, whose antioxidant properties reduce LDL ( or the“bad”) cholesterol oxidation, as red wine and four to five times as much as white wine. Denke also wrote that there are several polyphenols in hops that have been shown to reduce growth of human cancer cells. Finally, Dr. Denke reported that beer contains isoflavinoids, nutrients that act as estrogens that have been found to inhibit test-tube growth of prostate, breast and colon cancers.

BEER & THE KIDNEYS

A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 1999, revealed that an increase in beer consumption may reduce the risk of developing kidney stones. A 40 percent lower risk of kidney stones in beer drinkers was discovered.

HEALTHY HOPS

In November 2005, scientists at Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute reported that the more highly hopped a beer, the greater the level of xanthohumol. Studies of this compound have been conducted for its prevention or treatment of post-menopausal “hot flashes” and osteoporosis, as well as prevention of cancer.

BEER AND THE BONES

Two studies in 2004 suggested that moderate beer consumption may help prevent osteoporosis, a disease in which bones becomes fragile, due to its dietary silicon content.

DRINK HOMEBREW & LIVE TO A RIPE OLD AGE

Perhaps the best alcohol and health advice comes from Njoki Wainaina, a Kenyan woman whose family claims she is 143 years old. Wainaina says her long life can be attributed to God and a simple diet of bananas, maize, orange squash and homebrewed beer.

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