Over the years, beer has become the drink of choice at fraternity parties, football games and pizza nights with friends. The rise of craft beers in the past decade has introduced the refreshing beverage to a new generation, making breweries as chic as wineries. So it’s no wonder that there’s a National Beer Day on April 7.
Although National Beer Day promises to be a good time, it allows for the question of whether or not beer is good or bad for our health. There have been a variety of contradictory studies on the effects of alcohol on human health, and the results are, at times, confusing.
Main Ingredients of Beer and Their Health Benefits
Grain, hops, yeast and water are the four main ingredients of beer. But did you know what health benefits these ingredients offer?
1. Hops has unique compounds, xanthohumol (XN) and isoxanthohumol (IX), the latter can be activated into the prenylflavonoid 8-prenylnaringenin (8-PN) in human intestines. Researchers found that the properties in XN could make it useful as a cancer chemopreventive agent, and 8-PN has the ability to relieve some menopausal discomforts.
2. Yeast used in the beer-making process is called “brewer’s yeast,” which is rich in B vitamins and has small organisms that are beneficial to digestive health.[i]
3. Grains, barley in particular, contain high levels of silicon, according to researchers from the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of California, Davis.[ii] Silicon contributes to the increase of bone mineral density. Based on this finding, moderate consumption of beer is believed to help prevent osteoporosis.
A 2016 study by researchers at Penn State found that “drinking beer had a positive effect on high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels” beer drinkers in general also “had a slower decrease in HDL, therefore a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases.”
Side Effects of Drinking Beer
Since an average 12-ounce beer contains 150 calories, consuming beer without burning off the calories can lead to an increase in one’s waistline. But is that the only downside?
1. Not if you have gout. According to the Arthritis Foundation, beer is the worst alcoholic drink for those who have gout. Gout is caused by the buildup of uric acid crystals in the joints; it is a type of inflammatory arthritis. As beer contains a large amount of purines, which break down into uric acid, drinking beer can trigger gout pain.
2. Not if you feel bloated after drinking beer. Alcohol can cause irritation to the gastrointestinal tract, which is why some people bloat after drinking. As beer is carbonated, drinking beer means that more gas will be trapped in the body, and therefore, you will be more bloated and feel more discomfort.
Like any other alcohol, consumption in moderation is key to having an enjoyable experience with beer and even gaining some health benefits. The Mayo Clinic recommends that healthy women can have up to one beer (12 oz.) per day and healthy men age 65 and younger can have up to two beers a day.
[i] What is brewer’s yeast? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/brewers-yeast.
[ii] Beer is a rich source of silicon and may help prevent osteoporosis. Wiley-Blackwell. (2010). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100208091922.htm.