Benefits of a Beer or Two

October 2016 – Yes, in moderation, beer is good for you. It can help you sleep better, increase bone density, help prevent kidney stones, and help you avoid diabetes and dementia, among other health benefits.

Rochester Mills Milkshake Stout

Moderation, by the way, is an average of two beers a day for men, one for women. Please apply that to every recommendation here, even if we don’t explicitly state it. Drinking more than that will almost always reduce or even reverse the benefit of the first two beers.

Beer is a better source of protein and vitamin B than wine – and equal to wine in its antioxidant level. It is also a good source of some essential minerals.

I’m a big fan of dark beers – browns and porters and especially stouts – but whatever type of beer you like, in moderation it can be good for you in some unexpected ways.

We are not advocating the use of alcohol by those under the legal drinking age, with religious convictions proscribing the use of alcohol, or with addiction issues. If you do choose to drink beer, do so in moderation for personal enjoyment and the optimum level of health benefits.

Portion Control

Here in the United States, beer usually comes in 12 US ounce (355 ml) cans or bottles, although sometimes in 16 oz. (473 ml) cans or 22 oz. (650 ml) bottles. In Canada, 12 Imperial ounces (341 ml) is the norm. In Britain, 10 and 20 Imperial ounces (284 and 568 ml respectively) are the norm, 20 oz. being the traditional British pint. Australia has gone all out metric with 375 ml and 750 ml bottles.

Whatever the size, smaller bottles (relative to wine and hard liquor) makes it easier to keep track of your drinking. Pitchers and kegs do not.

Beer Boosts Your Immune System

Researchers at Oregon Health and Science University found that one or two drinks a day appears to boost your immune system and fight infection. However, those who drank in excess of this received no such benefit.

Beer Has Anti-Aging Properties

Vitamin E is a major antioxidant your body uses to maintain healthy skin, and beer increases its potency. This reduces the impact of aging and helps you look younger.

Beer Is Good for Your Heart

The cardiovascular benefits of beer match those of wine. Italian researchers found that moderate beer drinkers have a 42% lower risk of heart disease than non-drinkers. (These researchers suggest up to one Imperial pint – about 570 ml – with 5% ABV per day.)

Beer drinkers have a 40-60% lower risk of heart attack than non-beer drinkers, and a Kaiser Permanente study found beer better at reducing the incidence of heart disease than either wine or whiskey.

According to the Mediterranean Neurological Institute, drinking up to 2.8 pints of beer per day reduces the risk of heart disease by 25% for men. For women, 1.4 pints.

Researchers at the University of Scranton (Pennsylvania) found that drinking dark ales and stouts in moderation can reduce the incidence of heart attacks.

Beer provides vitamin B6, which prevents the buildup of homocysteine, and it has a thinning effect on your blood, which helps prevent blood clots. Moderate beer consumption also reduces the inflammation that can cause cholesterol and plaque buildup. The fiber from barley known as beta-glucans helps reduce “bad” cholesterol.

Beer Reduces Blood Pressure

High blood pressure puts a lot of stress on your body, and beer helps reduce that tension. Harvard researchers found that moderate beer drinkers are significantly less likely to develop high blood pressure those who drink wine or mixed drinks.

Beers Reduces Stroke Risk

Want to reduce your risk of stroke by 50%? According to research by the American Stroke Association, moderate beer consumption does that. The Harvard School of Public Health says this is because beer keeps your arteries flexible and improves blood flow.

Beer and Weight Loss

The fiber in beer helps you feel fuller by reducing the rate at which food moves from your stomach into your intestines. Drinking beer can help reduce or prevent overeating.

Researchers at the State University of Oregon found that xanthohumol, a natural flavonoid found in hops, can help reduce weight gain, reduce the level of “bad” cholesterol, and produce several other health benefits.

Beer Builds Bones

A couple beers a day can strengthen your bones, according to a Tufts University study. Those who drank one or two beers a day had a 4.5% increase in bone density, while those who drank more than two saw, on average, a 5.2% decrease in bone density.

Drinking two beers a day increases bone density in women, according to a report in Natural Medicine Journal.

Moderate beer consumption can help prevent osteoporosis.

Beer and Vitamin B

Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B9 (folic acid), and B12 are all present in beer thanks to the yeast used in brewing. Dutch researchers found that beer drinkers have a 30% higher vitamin B6 level than non-drinkers – and twice the level of wine drinkers. B3 aids cell repair, while B6 helps with PMS.

Better than Water or Gatorade After a Workout

Spanish researchers had students exercise until their body temperature reached 104°F (40°C) and then rehydrate with either beer or water. Water does a great job rehydrating, but beer does a slightly better job restoring your muscles, thanks to a substance found in hops.

I’m a huge fan of a lemon shandy after yard work, and that’s after drinking 1-2 quarts of water while cutting the grass. (A lemon shandy combines beer and lemonade for a refreshing treat. After years of drinking Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy, which is always excellent, I discovered Shoreview Lemon Shandy at Aldi and found the Belgian import to be perfect – just the right level of lemon tartness – and a great value. The biggest drawback is that lemon shandys tend to be available with warm weather.)

Beer vs. Diabetes

Dutch researchers found that men who were not heavy drinkers and drank moderately (one or two drinks per day) for four years were significantly less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. A 2011 Harvard study found that middle-aged men who drank one or two beers daily had a 25% lower risk for developing diabetes.

Canadian researchers found the greatest risk of developing type 2 diabetes among both non-drinkers and heavy drinkers, with women who drank two beers a day seeing a 40% reduction in their chance of developing diabetes.

Beer vs. Cancer

Xanthohumol is found in hops, and it helps prevent cancer. It is especially helpful again prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women.

Beer is just as effective at fighting cancer as red wine.

And scientists at the University of Idaho suggest that an ingredient found in beer could be useful in fighting cancer and inflammatory diseases.

Beer Aids Digestion

Yogurt. Probiotics. Beer. They can all benefit your digestive system. Beer also has up to 1 gram of fiber in a 10 ounce (30 cl) glass – and dark beer has more than lighter beer.

I Can See Clearly Now

Researchers at the University of Western Ontario found that one beer a day – particularly ales, lagers, and stouts – provides antioxidants that can stop cataracts from forming by preventing mitochondrial damage. However, drinking three or more per day has the opposite effect.

A Bit of Beer Can Help You Think Faster

Alcohol won’t boost your IQ, but the journal Consciousness and Cognition reports that beer drinkers with a blood alcohol level of 0.075 solved verbal puzzles more quickly than non-drinkers.

This is just below the 0.08% level considered legally drunk in most jurisdictions, so don’t even think of driving if you’re at this level.

Beer Helps Prevent Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s

By boosting the level of “good” cholesterol by 10-20%, beer reduces the risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s, and cardiovascular diseases. Researchers at the University of Alcala in Spain suggest that the silicon in beer helps limit absorption of aluminum by the brain, which helps prevent Alzheimer’s.

Researchers at Loyola University in Chicago found moderate drinkers (two per day for men, one for women) were 23% less likely to develop dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other cognitive impairment. Heavy drinking (3+ per day) appears to take that benefit away.

Chinese researchers found that xanthohumol, found in hops, seems to slow neurodegenerative diseases.

Beer Fights Anemia

Beer is a good source of vitamin B12, which is essential for memory and concentration, and folic acid, which helps prevent anemia. Vitamin B12 is not found in many foods.

A Spanish study found that the free iron in lagers – the darker the beer, the more free iron present – improves the level of oxygen circulated by your blood.

Beer Helps Prevent Kidney Stones

If you’ve ever passed a kidney stone or been in ER while someone nearby was doing so, you know it’s something you don’t ever want to experience. Beer is high in potassium and magnesium while low in sodium, which helps prevent the formation of kidney stones and helps keep your kidneys healthy. Certain compounds in hops slow the release of calcium from your bones.

Finnish researchers discovered that having one beer a day cuts your risk of kidney stones by 40% – and by 80% if you’re having two.

Feel Better About Yourself

British researchers found that the more men drink, the better they feel about themselves. Of course you probably won’t make as good an impression on others if you’ve had too many….

Beer vs. Dandruff

Sadly, the benefits of beer in fighting dandruff require you to rinse your hair with a bottle of beer 2-3 times a week. This is probably the best excuse for buying cheap beer.

Beer Helps You Stress Less and Sleep Better

This one is true for alcohol in general – it’s great stress buster. Because beer contains lactoflavin and nicotinic acid, it also promotes sleep. Ales, stouts, and lagers in particular stimulate the production of dopamine, which is something doctors often prescribe for patients with insomnia.

Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine found that simply tasting beer boosts your dopamine level.

In Closing

Rochester Mills Milkshake Stout

A milk stout with chocolate nibs.

I’ve found that about 8 oz. (half a can, with the other half for the next day) of my favorite milk chocolate stout before bedtime can do wonders for my sleep.

And if you’re looking for an app to track the beers you’re drinking, I can heartily recommend Untappd for iOS and Android, which also lets you share your findings with your friends.

Dan Knight lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, twice named Beer City USA and the home to some of the finest craft breweries in the United States. Grand Rapids is probably best known for Founders, but nearby cities include Kalamazoo, the home of Bell’s, and Holland with its New Holland Brewing – a personal favorite with its amazing Dragon’s Milk bourbon barrel stout (expensive and worth every penny – maybe twice a year) and The Poet, an oatmeal stout.

Further Reading

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