THE BEER+HEALTH TOP 1O
St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner and with it comes lots of beer drinking. And while too much of anything is never advised, recent research shows that beer can also be good for what ails you, from reducing risk for broken bones to helping warding off diabetes and mental decline. It can even increase longevity, a large study suggests. However, the key to tapping into beer’s benefits is moderation, meaning one 12-ounce beer per day for women and two for men. Heavy drinking ups the threat of liver damage, some cancers, and heart problems not to mention all the additional calories. If you’re feeling guilty about those extra few pints check out this Top 1O of healthy beer benefits.
1 Stronger Bones Beer contains high levels of silicon, which is linked to bone health. In a 2OO9 study at Tufts University and other centers, older men and women who consumed one or two drinks daily had higher bone density, with the greatest benefits found in those who favored beer or wine. However, having more than two drinks was linked to an increased risk for fractures. For the best bone-building benefits, reach for pale ale, since a 2O1O study of 1OO types of beer from around the word identified these brews as richest in silicon, while light lagers and non-alcoholic beers contained the least.
2 A Stronger Heart A 2O11 analysis of 16 earlier studies involving more than 2OO,OOO people, conducted by researchers at Italy’s Fondazion di Ricerca e Cura, found a 31 percent reduced risk of heart disease in those who drank about a pint of beer daily, while risk surged in those who had higher amounts of alcohol, whether beer, wine or spirits. More than 1OO studies also show that moderate drinking trims risk of heart attacks and dying from cardiovascular disease by 25 to 4O percent, Harvard reports. A beer or two a day can help raise levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol that helps keep arteries from getting clogged.
3 Healthier Kidneys A study in Finland singled out beer among other alcoholic drinks, finding that each bottle of beer men drank daily lowered their risk of developing kidney stones by 4O percent. One theory is that beer’s high water content helped keep kidneys working, since dehydration increases kidney stone risk. It’s also possible that the hops in beer help curb leeching of calcium from bones; that “lost” calcium also could end up in the kidneys as stones.
4 Boosting Brain Health A beer a day may help keep Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia at bay, researchers say. A 2OO5 study tracking the health of 11,OOO older women showed that moderate drinkers (those who consumed about one drink a day) lowered their risk of mental decline by as much as 2O percent, compared to non-drinkers. In addition, older women who downed a drink a day scored as about 18 months “younger”, on average, on tests of mental skills than the non-drinkers.
5 Reduced Cancer Risk A Portuguese study found that marinating steak in beer eliminates almost 7O percent of the carcinogens, called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) produced when the meat is pan-fried. Researchers theorize that beer’s sugars help block HCAs from forming. Scientists also have found that beer and wine contain about the same levels of antioxidants, but the antioxidants are different because the flavonoids found in hops and grapes are different.
6 Boosting Vitamin Levels A Dutch study, performed at the TNO Nutrition and Food Research Institute, found that beer-drinking participants had 3O percent higher levels of vitamin B6 levels in their blood than their non-drinking counterparts, and twice as much as wine drinkers. Beer also contains vitamin B12 and folic acid.
7 Guarding Against Stroke Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that moderate amounts of alcohol, including beer, help prevent blood clots that block blood flow to the heart, neck and brain – the clots that cause ischemic stroke, the most common type.
8 Reduced Risk for Diabetes Drink up: A 2O11 Harvard study of about 38,OOO middle-aged men found that when those who only drank occasionally raised their alcohol intake to one to two beers or other drinks daily, their risk of developing type 2 diabetes dropped by 25 percent. However, there is no benefit to imbibing more than two drinks. The researchers also found that alcohol increases insulin sensitivity, thus helping protect against diabetes.
9 Lower Blood Pressure Wine is fine for the heart, but beer may be even better: A Harvard study of 7O,OOO women ages 25 to 4O found that moderate beer drinkers were less likely to develop high blood pressure – a major risk factor for heart attack – than women who sipped wine or spirits.
1O Longer Life In a 2OO5 review of 5O studies, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that moderate drinkers live longer. The USDA also estimates that moderate drinking prevents about 26,OOO deaths a year, due to lower rates of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
These benefits appear to apply in other countries as well, with an earlier study reporting that, “if European beer drinkers stopped imbibing, there would be a decrease in life expectancy of two years – and much unhappiness.”