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Health Effects of Beer

Kymberly has managed many chronic illnesses for 25+ years, including sciatica, costochondritis, fibromyalgia, PTSD, endometriosis, and more.

Learn how much beer is ok to drink.

Learn how much beer is ok to drink.

Beer is the third most popular drink in the world, ranking only behind water and tea, and is the alcoholic beverage of choice for most drinkers.

The industry ranges from an average person and their home-brew kit, through to huge multinational corporations. In 2006, beer production companies earned more than $294 billion USD.

The Chinese are the world's biggest beer drinkers, 45 billion liters were downed in 2010, outranking American, Japanese and German beer drinkers - all countries with a strong beer-loving reputation.

Beer , served in a glass

Beer , served in a glass

What is beer?

A German would say: it is a mixture of malted barley, hops, yeast and water with no other additives allowed, except maybe sugar. In fact, you can only use the word 'beer' in Germany to describe such an alcoholic drink - it is mandated by law!1

However, beer may mean any alcoholic drink made from the following ingredients:

  • water
  • a starch source, such as malted or non-malted grains
  • yeast for fermentation
  • plant-based flavoring agents such as hops, wormwood, ginger, berries, etc.

It may also contain sugar, or additives to remove the cloudiness of the liquid (clarifying agents).

Beer and Health

But what about the health effects?

Over-consumption of anything has negative effects. Until recently, the negative image of drinking too much had a lot of exposure, with its associated beer bellies, increased aggression, and pounding hangovers.

Recent research is showing there are some positives to drinking beer in moderation, suggesting that 1 standard drink, 3-4 times per week may have health benefits.

Positive Health Effects

A low-level intake of beer, 1-2 standard drinks (350ml / 12 oz), has been shown in a wide range of studies to have positive effect on health.

Nutrients in a 350ml Can of Average Beer

NutrientAmount% Daily Value

Calories

153

8%

Carbohydrates

13g

4%

Vitamin B6

0.2mg

8%

Folate

21.4mcg

9%

Niacin

1.8mg

5%

Riboflavin

0.1mg

5%

Magnesium

21.4mg

5%

Phosphorous

49.8mg

5%

The vitamin B and antioxidants in beer contribute to a healthy balanced diet.2

Other nutrients may be present, depending on the ingredients used in and the method of brewing.

Because of the antioxidant properties of alcohol, beer can protect against the following illnesses:

  • heart disease and heart attacks3
  • strokes4
  • gallstones5
  • kidney stones6

Drinking a small amount regularly, contributes to better bone density, preventing or delaying osteoporosis.7

It is also associated with a reduced risk of rheumatoid arthritis and can improve the immune system of healthy people.8,9

It may initially help with the fear of social situations, by relaxing tension and slowing the brain's processing of panic signals.

Reducing Cholesterol

A moderate intake has been shown to reduce the bad cholesterol that thickens arteries, and also reduces cholesterol in the liver (possibly due to the ethanol content).

The bitter components raise the good HDL cholesterol, responsible for cleaning the bloodstream of the bad cholesterol. 17,18

Folk Medicine

A popular folk remedy against insomnia is to drink a warm beer before sleeping, to relax and slow the nervous system.

Hops can be found in some herbal tea blends combating insomnia.

Negative Health Effects

The negative health effects are almost entirely due to chronic excessive drinking.

Drinking too much, too often, will cause the diseases that drinking a little beer seems to prevent!

Beer in Language

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. What does someone mean when they say they will 'beer up'?
    • Buy a beer or two (or more).
    • Drink alcohol, of any type.
    • Get really drunk on a lot of beer.
    • Throw their beer up in the air.
  2. If something is 'beer and skittles', what is it?
    • Fun and easy.
    • Bubbly and colourful.
    • Fizzy and sweet.
    • Incompatible.
  3. What does 'small beer' mean?
    • A small drink, about 200ml.
    • A beer without much alcohol.
    • Something that is unimportant.
    • Something that is low in price.
  4. If someone is 'crying in their beer', what are they doing?
    • Literally, crying in their beer!
    • Being upset about their tasteless beer.
    • Laughing at a joke.
    • Feeling sorry for themselves.
  5. What is meant by: their job keeps them in beer?
    • That they have beer provided at work.
    • They can buy a lot of beer.
    • Their job pays their bills.
    • They feel overwhelmed and have headaches.
  6. If someone has a champagne taste on a beer budget, what are they doing?
    • Spending more than they earn.
    • Spending their money on expensive, boutique beers.
    • Drinking cheap champagne.
    • Wanting to buy luxuries, but only buying necessities.
  7. If someone says "That's not your beer!" what do they mean?
    • You are drinking someone else's beer.
    • You are sticking your nose into someone's private business.
    • You are wearing something that makes you look silly.
    • You want to do something that they know you will not enjoy.
  8. How do you see the world when you are wearing beer goggles?
    • It's amber coloured.
    • It's full of bubbles.
    • It's full of super-models.
    • It's too loud and unstable.
  9. If someone wants egg in their beer, what do they want?
    • Something for nothing.
    • An egg in their beer.
    • Something disgusting to make them stop drinking.
    • A high-protein snack.
  10. What is a deserter?
    • Someone who leaves the pub early.
    • A bottle of low-alcohol beer.
    • A wine or spirits drinker, their friends are drinking beer.
    • A lost full bottle of beer, found the next day.
  11. Which of the following are slang terms for beer?
    • Frostie
    • Vitamin B
    • Suds
    • Aiming juice
    • All of the above
  12. Which of these terms are slang for beer?
    • Oil
    • Laughing juice
    • Tinny
    • Slab
    • All of the above

Answer Key

  1. Drink alcohol, of any type.
  2. Fun and easy.
  3. Something that is unimportant.
  4. Feeling sorry for themselves.
  5. Their job pays their bills.
  6. Spending more than they earn.
  7. You are sticking your nose into someone's private business.
  8. It's full of super-models.
  9. Something for nothing.
  10. A lost full bottle of beer, found the next day.
  11. All of the above
  12. All of the above

Interpreting Your Score

If you got between 0 and 3 correct answers: Who needs language when we have beer!

If you got between 4 and 7 correct answers: Words and beer do not seem to mix so well.

If you got between 8 and 9 correct answers: The fizzy amber stuff can sometimes interfere with language a little too much.

If you got 10 correct answers: You love your beer, but sometimes it can mix a word or two up.

If you got between 11 and 12 correct answers: You are a language and beer aficionado!

Liver Damage

Drinking more than four standard drinks in one day (350ml / 12 oz of beer), will trigger inflammation in the liver.

Long term heavy drinkers have a high risk developing liver disease: fatty liver (steatosis), alcoholic hepatitis, and eventually cirrhosis.10

The good news is that much of the early damage can be repaired by complete abstinence from alcohol.

How Beer Affects the Brain

Even a small amount will slow down signal processing from the nervous system. Short term visual memory, depth perception and learning capabilities are all impaired with a few drinks.11

A moderate intake was shown to decrease verbal ability in elderly subjects.12

Adolescent drinkers can more easily damage their brain function and learning capabilities, because their brains are still developing. Alcohol upsets their hormonal balance, and stops the healthy development of organs, including their reproductive system.13

Over time, drinking heavily damages short and long term memory functions. Drinkers are unable to recall their intentions and plans, and have trouble learning.

Heavy drinkers are also more likely to suffer from insomnia and depression. The risk of strokes is increased, and eventually, alcohol withdrawal seizures and tremors may develop.

Unfortunately, this damage is not reversible.

Tyrannosaurus rex Sue, Field Museum, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.

Tyrannosaurus rex Sue, Field Museum, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.

Elsewhere in the Body

Heavy drinkers are at risk of developing a number of forms of cancer, especially liver and colorectal cancers.14 In fact, various cancer bodies around the world have categorized alcohol as a known carcinogen.

Excessive alcohol intake has been linked to the following illnesses:

  • skin disorders including hives, psoriasis and rosacea.
  • gout, leading to arthritis.
  • stomach inflammation
  • osteoporosis
  • diabetes and pancreatitis

Perhaps T-rex Sue, who had severe gout and joint pain, ingested too much alcohol?

Health Myths Debunked

There are many baseless health claims both for and against beer drinking.

Long neck beer bottle, now empty!

Long neck beer bottle, now empty!

Beer alone is not what causes a beer belly. Eating and drinking too many calories is the primary cause of larger bellies.

It will also not help you lose weight! Even though alcohol increases the rate at which you burn calories, it makes you hungry.15

It is certainly not a meal in a bottle as it is lacking most of the healthy nutrients that make up a balanced meal, even though it has a high calorie count.

While red wine can help prevent common colds, beer has no effect.16 Although alcohol of any type doesn't shorten the infection time, it may help you relax and manage the symptoms more easily.

Does it cause brain damage?

Perhaps it could if you hit someone over the head with a full bottle!

Mythbusters proved in their Bottle Bash episode, a full long-neck beer bottle, used as a weapon, can result in severe concussion, brain trauma and skull fractures. Not to mention the glass cutting into the scalp! Ow!

Beer Myth Impact

Beer and Health—Symposium

References

  1. Vorläufiges Biergesetz, German Beer law, 1993
  2. Nutritional and health benefits of beer, M.A. Denke, American Journal of the Medical Sciences, November 2000, 320(5):320-6
  3. Alcohol dosing and the heart: updating clinical evidence, M.N. Di Minno, M. Franchini, et al. Seminars in Thrombosis and Hemostasis, November 2011, 37(8):875-84
  4. Light-to-moderate alcohol consumption and risk of stroke among U.S. male physicians, K. Berger, et al. New England Journal of Medicine, November 1999, 341(21):1557–64
  5. Diet and gallstones in Italy: the cross-sectional MICOL results, A.F. Attili, E. Scafato, et al. Hepatology, June 1998, 27(6):1492-8
  6. Prospective study of beverage use and the risk of kidney stones, G.C. Curhan, W.C. Willett, et al. American Journal of Epidemiology, February 1996, 143(3):240-7
  7. Effects of beer, wine, and liquor intakes on bone mineral density in older men and women, K.L. Tucker, R. Jugdaohsingh, et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, April 2009, 89(4):1188-96
  8. Alcohol consumption is associated with decreased risk of rheumatoid arthritis, H. Källberg, S. Jacobsen, et al. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, July 2008. 68(2):222–7
  9. Effects of moderate beer consumption on first-line immunity of healthy adults, J Romeo, J. Wärnberg, et al. Journal of physiology and biochemistry, June 2007, 63(2):153-9
  10. Pathogenesis, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Alcoholic Liver Disease, K.V. Narayanan Menon, et al. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, October 2001, 76(10):1021-9
  11. The role of GABA(A) receptors in the acute and chronic effects of ethanol, S. Kumar, P. Porcu, et al. Psychopharmacology, September 2009, 205(4):529-64
  12. Alcohol intake and cognitive abilities in old age, J. Corley, X. Jia, et al. Neuropsychology. March 2011, 25(2):166-75
  13. Underage Drinking, NIAAA, January 2006
  14. Alcohol and cancer, P. Bofetta and M. Hashibe, The Lancet Oncology, February 2006, 7(2):149-56
  15. Alcohol intake and body weight: a paradox, Eric Jéquier, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, February 1999, 69(2):173-4
  16. Intake of wine, beer, and spirits and the risk of clinical common cold, B. Takkouche, C. Regueira-Méndez, et al. American Journal of Epidemiology, May 2002, 155(9):853-8
  17. Moderate consumption of beer reduces liver triglycerides and aortic cholesterol deposit in LDLr-/- apoB100/100 mice, P. Degrace, et.al., Atherosclerosis, Dec 2006,189(2):328-35
  18. Dietary isohumulones, the bitter components of beer, raise plasma HDL-cholesterol levels and reduce liver cholesterol and triacylglycerol contents similar to PPARalpha activations in C57BL/6 mice, Y. Miura, et.al., British Journal of Nutrition, April 2005, 93(4):559-67


Other health claims?

What other health claims for and against beer have you heard?

Let us know in the comments below!

Comments

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on November 05, 2013:

Thanks Avinesh! I've also heard that the scent of hops can help people get to sleep more easily!

Avinesh Prahladi from Chandigarh on October 29, 2013:

Beer is known as a rich source of flavonoids, vitamins and minerals. The hops used in the formulation of beer are known to have antioxidant effects. There are various other health benefits which include - curbs the development of kidney stone, helps in CHD (coronary heart disease) and various others.

RoadRipper on July 09, 2013:

I don't drink beer so I don't have to worry about it

Alex Munkachy from Honolulu, Hawaii on May 05, 2013:

Beer is better for you than soda!

vibesites from United States on May 05, 2013:

Although I've avoided beer and much alcohol for years (only occasionally sipping red wine), this article really surprised me. I thought that beer is entirely bad for one's health. Thanks listing all the health benefits of beer. I believe tho that moderation is indeed the key. Up and useful.

John Paolo B.Magdaluyo from Philippine on March 30, 2013:

wow, it seems you're a master of it very informative! Thanks for clearing that up! So, I bet, I should take less.

Better Yourself from North Carolina on March 29, 2013:

Very interesting! I'm not a drinker myself but it's interesting to learn that there are benefits to drinking beer in moderation. I'd heard of health benefits with red wine but not beer. Great research and hub!

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on March 29, 2013:

Hi PaoloJpm! The alcohol in beer is metabolized by the liver while you sleep, over a period of 4-8 hours, so adding water the morning after drinking too much, won't help. Of course, it will help to replace the water in your body that was lost thanks to beer's diuretic properties!

John Paolo B.Magdaluyo from Philippine on March 28, 2013:

Cool! great job and very informative. I want to ask something, I have a friend that told me about excessive beer drinking. If you drink a lot, drinking lot water in the morning would minimize consequences. Is that true? medically speaking?

iguidenetwork from Austin, TX on March 26, 2013:

Oh goodness! Let's drink to that! :D

Of course like all the good things, beer should be taken in moderation. I am surprised to find out that beer can actually prevent heart diseases. Thanks for your wonderful information. Voted up and useful, awesome.

John from Irvine, California on March 26, 2013:

My brain is about to explode with information about beer! Strangely enough, my entire family has a really weird reaction to beer and alcohol in general, so I've never been able to fully understand the appeal.

I'm assuming I got lucky!

Great hub. Thanks for the info.

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on March 26, 2013:

Thanks lambservant! I went hunting specifically for beer and cholesterol research - seems it actually improves cholesterol! In moderation it reduces liver and heart cholesterol (the bad stuff), and increases HDL cholesterol (the good stuff). Added to the article - thanks again!

Lori Colbo from Pacific Northwest on March 25, 2013:

Does excsessive beer drinking affect cholesterol?

Interesting article and well referenced. I hate beer but grew up around it and lots of beer alcoholics. The smell of it makes me ill. But I have to say, I have enjoyed on a few occasions some of the stronger beers, ales, whatever you call them.

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on March 13, 2013:

alphajuno - Thank you! Enjoy your home brew!

alphajuno from League City, TX on October 24, 2012:

Lots of great information in here. Thanks for doing all the research and putting it together. I'm all out of home brew now but may start back now that it's fall. Thanks again!

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on October 14, 2012:

Thanks sri! Moderation is best!

sri on July 12, 2012:

Having a moderate diet control is a good idea. I liled it.

Thank you. . .

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on April 24, 2012:

Tenkay - perhaps drinking beer if you lack green leafy vegetables is for the antioxidants? Everything in moderation ... Thanks for commenting!

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on April 24, 2012:

Keri - enjoy your healthy vitamin dose! :)

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on April 24, 2012:

cclitgirl - Thank you! There's quite a lot of beer-related slang that is different in England / Australia / America - I'd be surprised if anyone got 100%.

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on April 24, 2012:

Marina - thanks! Moderation in everything is certainly a good motto to live by.

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on April 24, 2012:

GC - I had heard good health claims about Guinness (mostly because it's high in B vitamins), but had not heard the connection with nursing mothers! Not sure that's a good idea...

Kymberly Fergusson (author) from Germany on April 24, 2012:

Alissa - The water content probably helped with UTIs - flush everything out! I don't think I could do that though, I hate the taste of beer!

TENKAY from Philippines on March 27, 2012:

I've read somewhere that if you lack green leafy veggies in your diet you can drink beer instead. Of course, it should be taken in moderation. Anything in excess is bad for your health.

Voted up and useful.

Keri Summers from West of England on March 23, 2012:

I loved reading about the anti-oxidants and Vitamin B - I knew it was good for me on some level!

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on March 23, 2012:

MMM...I definitely like a beer here and there. Yum, yum. I did NOT do well on that quiz. Hmm, I'd better learn some more about beer. But, I learned SO MUCH from your hub. This was chock-full of great information. :)

Marina from San Francisco, CA on March 23, 2012:

Very informative & interesting Hub! Moderation is important with anything we choose to consume. I had no idea that it's commonly believed beer helps with weight loss. Ha!

Anna from New York, NY on March 23, 2012:

I heard a fascinating claim in my international marketing class about a major Guinness marketing campaign during the 1930s which claimed that Guinness is "good for health" - and not only that, good for breastfeeding mothers to enhance breastmilk production! Guinness has stopped claiming that it's good for your health a long time ago but the connection with Guinness being good for nursing mothers still lingers and some women think it's true.

Alissa Roberts from Normandy, TN on March 23, 2012:

When my mom was younger, she suffered from numerous kidney and bladder infections. Her doctor always suggested to go home and drink a beer. It was pure torture for her because she has always hated the taste. But she did say it helped her. Great job with this most informative hub - voted up!