The Benefits of Your Brew

September 08, 2010

The Benefits of Your Brew

Thinking of beer as having nutritional benefits may sound a bit odd at first. Maybe because we all know that old wives' tale that too much beer drinking can make a hefty addition to our waistline – popularly known as the "beer belly" – and too much fat around our middle is not good for us.

In 1991, 60 Minutes brought to Americans’ attention the "French Paradox" - the fact that the French have a 42 percent lower incidence of heart disease than Americans, and somehow manage to accomplish this with one of the highest fat diets in the world. One of the key reasons for this difference was their consumption of red wine and its antioxidant properties. Red wine is loaded with polyphenols; the compound derived from grape tannins and anthocyanins pigments which are among the most powerful of the antioxidants which can actually lower our risks for heart disease. But what you might not know is that in the eyes of science the polyphenols in tea, wine and beer are more or less the same.

A Dutch study, conducted by TNO Nutrition and Food Research in Zeist, The Netherlands, found that a known reference for predicting future cardiovascular disease, blood C- reactive protein (CRP), declined by 35 percent after three weeks of regular beer consumption compared with levels after three weeks of drinking non-alcoholic beer. The same study found that levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol rose by 11 percent during the same period.

The darker the brew, the more antioxidants. A dark beer-light beer study presented at the 2003 American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions, reported that because of the higher content of flavonoids, dark beer was more effective in fighting blood clots than light beer.

Beer also seems to have a unique benefit beyond those in tea or red wine: beer’s silicon content, a trace element that is found in high fiber grains such as hops that is used to ferment beer . A study conducted at University of London and Cambridge and published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research claims to have found a relationship between the intake of dietary silicon and decreased bone loss in men and premenopausal women.

Now, now … before you run out and start chugging those brews remember to read those labels carefully, and to drink responsibly and in moderation. The calorie content in beers varies greatly from brand to brand, variety to variety and as with all foods and beverages, unless those calories are burned, they will work their way to your middle!