The Anti-Alcohol wingnuts of the world tend to go apoplectic anytime it’s suggested that alcohol might have any health benefits. It just doesn’t fit their world view. I’ve seen it happen. Oh, some of the comments I’ve gotten. But, of course, myriad studies have shown just that and even our government acknowledged that fact in the recent dietary recommendations. That didn’t stop the wingnuts from a letter writing campaign because they just couldn’t stand the idea of the Fed’s recommendation that it’s safe to drink more than two drinks a day, even on occasion. Oh, the horror! Believe it or not, it’s illegal for beer labels to make health claims, even if they’re true.
So I took great pleasure when I saw the American Dietetic Association today sent out a press release about an article that was published in their ADA Times extolling the benefits of beer, and its numerous nutrition and health benefits for American Heart Month, which is February.
From the press release:
While red wine is often touted as the heart-healthy libation, more evidence is showing beer has a great deal of nutrition and health-promoting qualities as well, according to an article published in the Winter 2011 issue of the American Dietetic Association’s member publication, ADA Times.
“Red wine enjoys a reputation for sophistication and health benefits, but as interest in artisan brewing gains momentum and emerging research reveals unique nutrition properties, beer is finding redemption not only as a classy libation with deep roots in many cultures, but as a beverage with benefits,” writes registered dietitian and ADA Spokesperson Andrea Giancoli.
February is American Heart Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness of the leading cause of death in the U.S. — cardiovascular disease. One in three adults has some form of heart/cardiovascular disease. Many of these deaths and risk factors are preventable and food choices have a big impact on your heart’s health, even if you have other risk factors.
Moderate consumption of any alcoholic beverage, including beer, has been shown to increase HDL cholesterol, lower LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of blood clotting, Giancoli writes in ADA Times. Moderate alcohol consumption has also been associated with a lower incidence of gallstones, decreased risk of type 2 diabetes and improved cognitive function in older adults.
“Beer specifically has been associated with additional health outcomes, including lowering the risk of kidney stones in men compared to other alcoholic beverages, possibly due to its high water content and diuretic effect,” Giancoli writes. “Compounds in hops may also slow the release of calcium from bone that is implicated in kidney stones. Additionally, beer drinkers seem to have a more protective effect towards greater bone mineral density due to the high content of silicone in beer.”
Like wine, beer is fat free. Carbohydrates, which make up about one-third of the calories in beer, mostly come from partially broken down starch. Protein, which is nearly non-existent in wine, is present in small amounts in beer — about 4 percent of the total calories.
Most beers are between 3 percent and 6 percent alcohol by volume, although some beers can contain as much as 10 percent alcohol, “and some are much higher.” Giancoli writes. “Wines are between 12 percent and 14 percent ABV. Because the average beer has a lower ABV and more than two and half times as much water, it contributes to fluid intake more so than wine.”
Although the USDA Nutrient Database lists beer’s fiber content as zero grams recent studies have shown lager contains up to 2 grams of soluble fiber per liter, while dark beers can contain up to 3.5 grams. “Although wine and beer are neck-and-neck when it comes to mineral composition, each providing some potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and fluoride (the latter presumably contributed through the water source), beer is the winner when it comes to selenium and silicon,” Giancoli writes.
Here’s a chart from the article comparing what’s in beer and wine.
And here’s some more from the article itself:
A recent report from global research group Mintel shows that 33 percent of all beer drinkers in the U.S. are consuming less imported beer because they’re opting for domestic craft beer instead. in addition, nearly 60 percent of beer drinkers say they like to try craft or microbrew beers, and 51 percent would try more if they knew more about them, suggesting consumer education is the key to cultivating growth in the artisan beer market.
And about micronutrients:
Beer Outshines Wine with Many Micronutrients
One 12-ounce regular beer contributes folate, vitamin B6, niacin, pantothenic acid and riboflavin. Beer is also a plant source of vitamin B12, supplying about 3 percent of the recommended daily amount for adults, according to the USDA Nutrient database (although other sources claim higher B12 contents in beer).
So drink a toast to a healthy heart this month. And make sure it’s beer.