We’ve all read about how great red wine is for our health, and how the French and the Italians, who love their wine, have a lower rate of heart disease than Americans. The belief is that antioxidants called polyphenols, derived from the skin of the grape, which are more prevalent in red wine than white, help protect the cardiovascular system from disease. The jury is still out on the truth of these health claims, since studies, as often is the case in matters of health, have fallen on both sides of the debate. Still, we know that a glass or two of wine a day won’t hurt us, and the relaxation and stress reduction that imbibing affords is an indisputable plus. Most doctors will say, “Cheers!” as long as your drinking is controlled, responsible, moderate, and there are no other health factors to consider (like diabetes or alcoholism, for instance).
But what about red wine’s blue-collar cousin, beer? The average American consumes almost three gallons of wine per capita (split about evenly between red and white). Compare that to beer, which we consume at the rate of about 27 gallons per year. Wouldn’t it be great if an ice-cold brewski could provide the health benefits of red wine? Well, as the song goes, happy days are here again! There is considerable evidence that—in moderation—a cold one a day could help keep the doctor away.
Here are nine health benefits that beer may provide.
1. Beer improves digestion.
As any beer aficionado knows, one of beer’s main ingredients is hops, made from the female flowers of the hops plant. Hops is responsible for beer’s bitter, slightly tangy taste. The hops flower also contains a variety of chemicals called bitter acids, which have a number of healthful attributes. One is that bitter acids cause the release of gastric acid in the stomach. Gastric acid is responsible not only for breaking down food in the stomach, but also controlling the proliferation of harmful bacteria in the gut.
2. Beer may fight some cancers.
A 2010 study in Austria found that a chemical found in beer, xanthohumol, stopped the growth of cancer cells and prevented damage to DNA in test rats who had been exposed to carcinogenic chemicals. Particularly promising is that the amount of xanthohumol given to the rats was small, comparable to a typical amount of beer a human might consume. Another earlier study in 2007 reported that lupulone, a bitter acid in beer, eliminated tumors in rats with cancer of the colon. While it is always risky to draw conclusions about human health from studies on animals, studies like these show promise.
3. Beer reduces inflammation.
Inflammation has been fingered as a possible trigger for many modern-day diseases. A 2009 study found that humulone, one of those healthful bitter acids in beer, helped fight inflammation. A separate industry-funded study of humulone in 2013 found it was helpful in preventing and treating viral lung infections.
4. Beer strengthens bones.
The mineral silicon is an important building block for bones. A form of silicon that is prevalent in beer is orthosilicic acid, which also happens to be easily metabolized by the human body. Beers that are brewed with a high amount of malted barley and hops, like IPAs, are the best source of the mineral. Older women, who are especially prone to osteoporosis, take note!
5. Beer cleans your teeth
Biofilm is the slippery coating that collects on your teeth if you skip brushing enough times. It has been linked to the development of gingivitis and tooth decay. A 2012 study on the effects of certain plant extracts on the build-up of biofilm showed that beer extract prevented the biofilm bacteria from doing its dirty work. The beer extract was more effective than all of the other extracts tested. We’re not suggesting you gargle with a cold Bud in the morning or anything, but….
6. Beer ‘hearts’ hearts.
Some of the same studies that indicate red wine can lower the risk of heart disease by 25% tell us that beer, with the same abundant polyphenols as wine, has the same potential . A 2012 Harvard study reported that heart attack survivors who drank a beer or two a day were 50% less likely to die over the next two decades than their non-drinking counterparts.
7. Beer is brain food.
A Chinese study in 2015 found that xanthohumol, the same beer ingredient that helped prevent cancer in rats, was also an effective antioxidant for the brain cells. Other studies have shown xanthohumol may encourage neuron growth and development.
8. Beer protects against kidney stones.
Kidney stone pain is something you want to avoid at all costs. So drink up! In a large study of almost 200,000 participants, beer drinkers were found to have a 40% reduced chance of developing kidney stones.
9. Beer helps you recover from a workout.
A study out of Grenada University in Spain found that student participants who drank beer after a tough workout rehydrated better compared to students who drank water or sports drinks.
As is always the case when alcohol is the topic, moderation is key. Any benefits derived from consuming alcohol are usually lost when alcohold is abused, or worse, it could cause damage. Beer (or wine or any alcoholic beverage) should be limited to no more than two drinks per day. Talk to your doctor if you are taking any medications that may react with alcohol. And of course, never, ever, combine any drinking with driving. That’s what Uber was invented for.