A new study from Portugal has claimed that drinking beer is beneficial for the intestines and also has the potential to prevent chronic diseases.
“Beer consumption contributes to the improvement of the composition of the intestinal microbiota, a factor that has been associated with the prevention of very common chronic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases,” The Center for Research in Health Technologies and Services (CINTESIS) , which conducted the study, said in a statement.
In the randomised, double-blind, controlled study, the researchers divided 20 healthy men between the ages 18 to 65 into two groups drinking one 11-fluid ounce bottle of either alcoholic lager or non-alcoholic lager with dinner for four weeks. The participants were to maintain their dietary habits and follow the same level of activity.
There was no change in the participants’ body weight, body mass index and serum biomarkers for heart health and metabolism, as per the blood and fecal samples.
The study revealed that at the end of the four-week period, both groups showed “greater bacterial diversity in their gut microbiome and higher levels of fecal alkaline phosphatase activity”. This enzyme helps ward off bad bacteria in the gut, which researchers said indicates improvement in intestinal health.
Published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the study revealed that the benefit of beer on gut health “proved to be independent of alcohol content”. It further suggested that healthy men who drank one alcoholic or non-alcoholic lager beer daily developed a more diverse set of gut microbes, which is associated with a lower risk of chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
It also claims that drinking beer “does not significantly interfere with cardiometabolic biomarkers” such as glucose, cholesterol, and triglycerides.
According to the researchers, just like red wine, the presence of polyphenols in the drink has been linked to the beneficial effects.
What do experts say?
According to Dr (Mr) Kiran Rukadikar, bariatric physician and obesity consultant, and founder of DietQueen App, one can understand the pros and cons of beer by looking “into the process of making the beer across different continents, and check the ingredients”.
“Beers are produced by the brewing and fermentation of starches, mainly derived from cereal grains—most commonly from malted barley. The use of wheat, maize (corn), rice, and oats is also started recently. Top-fermented beers are most commonly produced with Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a top-fermenting yeast. The yeast is used as a probiotic in humans and animals which is industrially manufactured and used clinically as a medication. It is useful for prevention or treatment of several gastrointestinal diseases,” he said.
Drinking small quantities of alcohol (less than one drink in women and two in men, per day) is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes mellitus, and early death, added Dr Rukadikar.
Notably, beers vary in their nutritional content, according to the expert. “The ingredients used to make beer, including the yeast, provide a rich source of nutrients; therefore beer may contain nutrients including magnesium, selenium, potassium, phosphorus, biotin, chromium and B vitamins,” said Dr Rukadikar.
Though beer in small amounts might have some positive effects like reducing stress, reducing chances of kidney stones, lowering bad cholesterol, and vitamin B, according to nutritionist and weight loss expert Anjali Verma, it also can become an issue when binge drinking is practiced.
“Small amount might have some pros. However, heavy or binge drinking is where the problem lies. While beer has antioxidants like red wine, even moderate drinking is not advisable as it can lead to chronic issues in the long-term,” Verma told indianexpress.com.
Only occasional drinking say, for instance, once in 10–15 days can be somehow beneficial as many studies have been conducted in this field which suggests that it might protect one against cardiovascular disease, said Dr Ravindra Pal Malhotra, director and HOD – Centre for Liver Transplant and Gastro Sciences – Saroj Super Speciality Hospital, Delhi.
“Some health advantages of beer may include a reduced risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. However, excessive or heavy beer intake can result in diseases including cancer, liver disease, and heart disease, stroke, and elevated blood pressure,” Dr Malhotra said.
The long-term health effects of continuous, moderate or heavy alcohol consumption include the risk of developing alcoholism and alcoholic liver disease. Alcoholism, results in problems of two types: alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence, elucidated Dr Rukadikar.
“The more famous beer belly is because of overeating and lack of muscle tone rather than beer consumption. A study found a link between binge drinking and a beer belly. But with most over-consumption, it is more a problem of improper exercise and overconsumption of total calories and carbohydrates than the product itself. Beer has undesirably high glycemic index of 110, the same as maltose; however, the maltose in beer undergoes metabolism by yeast during fermentation so that beer consists mostly of water, hop oils and only trace amounts of sugars, including maltose,” he explained.