Science (Currently) States Beer is Good For You

Over the past few years, there have been many studies bemoaning the health issues tied to beer. Like many other enjoyable consumables (particularly red meat, bacon) alcohol is continually being put through the scientific ringer with researchers apparently unable to decide whether or not beer is good for you. Recently, I have seen a number of articles suggesting the health benefits of beer. While this is clearly not exhaustive, and the health risks of consuming large amounts of alcohol are well documented, if I can get science to tell me that drinking a beer is OK, I will drink a damn beer. So here’s a rundown of some of the pro-beer science of recent weeks.

Beer and Mental Clarity

You may have seen an article doing the rounds in recent days, claiming that moderate drinking can aid mental clarity. The article centers around a study conducted by the University of Graz, in Austria, where a control group and an experimental group were given a pint of alcohol-free and regular beer respectively. Participants were then asked to complete a series of tests.

Reportedly, those who consumed alcohol showed improved ability to solve a world puzzle, though they also exhibited a reduced ability to concentrate and remember. Researchers concluded that the beneficial results were likely restricted to “modest amounts of alcohol.”

How do I sign up for one of these studies?

Alcohol and Cardiac Health

A British Study of 1.9 million people, aged 30 and above, has concluded that there may be a link between moderate alcohol consumption and better heart health. For the purposes of this study, “moderate alcohol consumption” refers to 14 units of alcohol for women and 21 units of alcohol for men in a one week period. A “unit” of alcohol can differ from beverage to beverage, depending on alcohol content, but can be roughly generalized as a 1oz shot of liquor, 8oz of 4% beer or around 4oz of <11% wine. Presumably, this would be spaced out across the week, as opposed to drinking 14 or 21 units of alcohol one day a week.

What exact health benefits can one expect from such alcohol consumption? The article reads:

The research, published in the British Medical Journal, found that moderate drinkers were less likely than non-drinkers to turn up at their doctor with angina, heart attack, heart failure, ischaemic stroke, circulation problems caused by a build-up of fat in the arteries and aortic aneurysm than non-drinkers.

However, these volumes of alcohol seem to be somewhat of a “Goldy Locks zone”. The study revealed that those women who consumed more than 14 units and men who consumed more than 21 units of alcohol a week, on average, were more likely to suffer cardiac issues. So go enjoy your beer, just don’t go too crazy. (I am not a doctor, please follow the advice of your medical professional)

Probiotic Beer

If you’ve spent any time on Facebook lately, you may have seen this video produced by Now This Future. A student at the National University of Singapore has managed to develop probiotic beer as part of a senior project. The student, Alcine Chan, noted that hops were the biggest barrier to maintaining probiotic cultures in her beverage.

Hops is the main ingredient that kills probiotics, so we have to find a way in order to allow the probiotics to overcome the hops.

The video claims the beer “boosts your immune system… improves gut health… and it still tastes good”. The beer has a 3.5% ABV and a sweet taste. Drinking beer and being healthy? Like I needed an excuse!

Beer Fights Depression?

Probably not, but there is some anecdotal evidence suggesting that moderate drinkers are happier than those who drink in excess or abstain all together. A Gallup Poll, reported in January 2016, suggests that 13% of moderate drinkers have been diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives. Compare this statistic to 19% of non-drinkers and 17% of heavy drinkers and there’s some argument that alcohol may help. Moderate drinkers were also more likely to report positive emotional state on any given day.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse Director, George Koob, advised these results did not surprise him. He attributed the depression woes of heavy drinkers, in-part, to the changes in the brain that alcohol abuse can cause. He contends that moderate alcohol consumption may show some correlation with happiness because of the social settings it typically occurs in. Who doesn’t love a few drinks at the pub, unless it’s Samuel Smith’s and you’re not allowed to swear….

For the purpose of the study, moderate drinking was defined as one to fourteen drinks per week, and heavy consumption was defined as fifteen or more alcoholic beverages per week.

So There You Have It

For all the worry about cancer, dementia and the like, beer (and alcohol in general) doesn’t have to get a bad wrap. It seems alcohol can be of some benefit, particularly when consumed in moderation and in social settings. So get out, meet some people and enjoy a few beers, you’ll be better off for it.

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