When experts talk about the health benefits of alcohol, red wine typically tops the list. But beer should get a lot of attention, too, since it has a lower concentration of alcohol compared to wine and spirits. So, drinking beer is a great way to keep within moderation.
Plus, it’s loaded with powerful constituents that protect you against many different types of serious conditions and diseases…
The surprising health benefits of beer
Research shows that moderate consumption of beer can lower your risk of developing several chronic diseases, including Type II diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and dementia. It can also help keep your gastrointestinal (GI) microbiome healthy, protect against bone loss, and lower your risk of getting cataracts.
Plus, like wine, beer is loaded with antioxidants. And it’s a gold mine for bioavailable minerals such as calcium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, and silicon.
Even non-alcoholic beer is good for you. (Which is good news for those problem drinkers we recently talked about.) In fact, one study found that drinking it reduces anxiety and promotes better sleep quality. And that’s because the hops in beer are natural relaxants—even without alcohol!
Of course, hops are the flowers (also called seed cones or strobiles) of a plant called Humulus lupulus. The plant belongs to the Cannabaceae family of plants, which also includes cannabis (hemp, marijuana) and celtis (hackberries). Beermakers add hops to balance out a beer’s sweetness with some bitterness.
They also add hops to help with the brewing and preserving processes. In fact, some beers are brewed with higher concentrations of hops because of their remarkable anti-microbial, preservative properties.
For example, the India Pale Ale (IPA) brews are high in hops and carry the bitter taste of the plant. These hearty beers date back to the period of British rule over the Indian subcontinent, when British merchants learned that brewing beers with high hops content kept it from spoiling during long ship voyages.
In addition, we now know that hops offer many health benefits—beyond the benefits of moderate alcohol consumption itself.
Hops does a whole lot more than just add bitterness to your beer
Hops contain a potent flavonoid called xanthohumol (XN), which gives beer its golden- yellow color. In fact, experiments show XN helps reduce inflammation and protect you from a number of serious conditions, including:
- Blood clots
- Colitis (inflammation of the colon)
- Heart disease
Beers made with hops also contain bitter acids. And in lab studies, bitter acids increased the levels of a key neurotransmitter in the brain’s hippocampus (a region associated with memory). They also suppressed inflammation and reduced protein waste products in the brain.
In other experiments, bitter acids were shown to:
- Improve results on cognitive testing
- Help reduce body weight in obese mice
- Reduce inflammation, oxidative stress, and blood clotting
- Decreased insulin resistance and improve blood sugar
- Protect against acute alcoholic liver injury
Not bad for a beverage that still doesn’t get much credit from mainstream medicine. (All the more reason I encourage its consumption, in moderation.)
Before I sign off for the week, I’d like to share a little ditty about beer I heard recited years ago by some older alumni from Penn. It went, “Oh, it’s that most terrible time of the year, too hot for Scotch and too cold for beer.”
As I recall, it was autumn when the alumni sang it. But at this time of year, in mid-June, it’s the perfect temperature just about everywhere in the U.S. for enjoying a nice, cold, and refreshing golden-yellow IPA beer (or two).
P.S. I’ll continue reporting on the health benefits of beer—and alcohol, in general—right here in my Daily Dispatch and in my monthly newsletter. In fact, I have a special report on the benefits of beer lined up for the August issue of Insiders’ Cures. So if you haven’t already, consider becoming a subscriber today. You won’t want to miss it!
“The Sedative Effect of Non-Alcoholic Beer in Healthy Female Nurses.” PLoS One. 2012; 7(7): e37290. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0037290
“Nutritional and health benefits of beer.” Am J Med Sci. 2000 Nov;320(5):320-6. doi.org/10.1097/00000441-200011000-00004.
“Role of characteristic components of Humulus lupulus in promoting human health.” J Agric Food Chem. 2019; 67:8291−8302. doi: 10.1021/acs.jafc.9b03780