Beer, more than a drink, almost a food but to be taken with care
Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetes action, protects the heart and the brain, fights obesity but has to be taken in moderation.
Beer is a low alcoholic drink obtained from the fermentation of cereals and flavored with hops. Beer is a drink of ancient origin, so much that it was known and appreciated already at the time of the ancient Egyptians, who used it to wean babies and even as a coin. In fact, the workers who had built the pyramid of Cheops were paid in part with… beer! Even nowadays, beer is probably one of the most popular beverages in the world and there are different variants of it, lighter, darker, more alcoholic, with a more or less marked flavor. But is beer just a tasty and pleasant drink or does it have health benefits too? Let's try to understand it on the basis of scientific studies.
A moderate intake of beer, and therefore one glass per day for women and two for men, is considered protective for cardiovascular health and capable of reducing the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases (de Gaetano et al, Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis, 2016). In particular, a glass of beer would help improve the elasticity of blood vessels, increase good HDL cholesterol and, at the same time, reduce bad LDL cholesterol. Not only that, this moderate consumption of alcohol in the form of beer also has an anti-inflammatory and antithrombotic action (Spaggiari et al, PLoS One, 2020). Compared to wine, beer contains more proteins and vitamins of group B. The quantity of antioxidants is comparable even if, compared to wine, the substances capable of counteracting the damage of free radicals vary, since beer and wine are obtained from different raw materials (Denke et al, Am J Med, Sci, 2000). In beer, in particular, there are catechins, kempferol, quercetin, proanthocyanins and xanthotumol, a flavonoid with an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antitumor and hypoglycemic action contained in hops and therefore typical of beer, just like humulone, which acts as an anti-obesity and anti diabetes substance (Kondo et al, Biofactors, 2004).
Beer, warnings and risks
If a moderate consumption of beer, as we have seen, can be beneficial, it is absolutely necessary to avoid excess. In fact, it is reported a J-shaped relationship between the consumption of alcoholic beverages, including beer, and an increased risk mortality (de Gaetano et al, Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis, 2016). What does it mean? That those who manage to limit their consumption of beer have a lower risk than those who either don't drink at all or those who drink too much. This clearly does not mean that abstainers are at risk, also because within a healthy diet and an active lifestyle there are many protective factors for health. On the other hand, as far as an excess of beer is concerned, heavy drinkers see the risk of getting sick quickly increase, therefore, the health properties that we have seen in the previous paragraph are in no way to be considered a pretext for exceeding the intake of this beverage. In fact, alcohol consumption is directly proportional to an increased risk of developing cancer, especially breast cancer in women and lung cancer in men (Betts et al, J Public Health, 2018). Finally, beer, like any other alcoholic beverage, should not be given to children, adolescents, pregnant women and anyone who is at risk of developing an addiction or has pancreas, liver or heart problems. Do not drink beer before driving or when concentration and coordination are required (de Gaetano et al, Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis, 2016).