Drinking To Your Health: Beer And The Body

Posted on November 11th, 2009

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Today’s post is part 2 of Beeriety contributor Sarah’s look at beer and health. Thanks Sarah!

The health benefits of beer (when consumed in moderation, of course) are almost in-numerable. A beer can help with everything from settling an upset stomach to improving heart health to increasing blood iron levels. It can strengthen bones, improve skin, and defend against memory loss. And as for those beer bellies, it doesn’t cause them. What beer does do, as more and more evidence is suggesting, is just about everything that red wine does – maybe more!

The specific benefits of beer come from three main areas:

Alcohol: We’ve been hearing for years now that regular consumption of small amounts of alcohol is good for you. A drink a day can help increase blood flow, which is both relaxing and good for the heart, reducing the likelihood of stroke or heart attack. A lesser known benefit to drinking is its ability to fight osteoporosis. Because alcohol helps the body absorb calcium more efficiently it can help maintain healthy, strong bones. Low to moderate alcohol consumption has been loosely linked to fighting diseases and conditions like dementia, type 2 diabetes, hearing loss, rheumatoid arthritis, and ulcers. Those who drink a little live longer (and healthier) than those who drink too much or not at all. And a standard 12oz bottle of beer (typically) has the same amount of alcohol that a standard 5oz pour of red wine would have.

B-Vitamins: The grains and yeasts used to make beer are rich in powerful B-vitamins, which help the body maintain healthy metabolism, immune function, and red blood cell counts. And like alcohol, they’ve also been linked to improved blood pressure and healthy heart function. Most notably, the concentrations of B6, B12, and folic acid found in beer help prevent the build-up of homocysteine, an amino acid linked to both cardiovascular problems and bone-deficiency, making beer valuable to heart, bone and skin health.

Hops: Hops, as we’ve learned before, are a flowering plant used to balance the flavor of beer and help keep unwanted bacteria from affecting the desired reactions of the yeast. However, before it was used in beer, hops were used to treat everything from indigestion to leprosy. Today hops (when not in beer) are most frequently used as an herbal supplement to treat insomnia and mild anxiety. These anti-oxidant-rich plants contain a powerful compound called xanthohumol, a prenylflavonoid which may fight conditions like cancer and Alzheimer’s. While most beers only contain trace amounts of this compound (the hoppy-er varieties will obviously have more), hops have many other health benefits: they can reduce blood triglyceride levels; they can help sooth upset stomachs and aid in digestion; and they can help reduce the calcium build-up that leads to kidney stones. In addition, hops are a powerful phytoestrogen, potentially aiding in the fight against heart disease, certain cancers, and osteoporosis.

So, the next time someone tells you to put down the pint glass and pick up a wine glass, don’t be afraid to proudly defend your drink of choice!