beer column

these are my notes from yesterday's beer column on cbc radio's on the coast
topic:  the health benefits of beer

its February now, new year's resolutions probably abandoned, but all is not lost, there's still beer and it can actually be good for you!

this time of the year can be particularly hard with the grey and rainy vancouver weather. summer seems like it will never come, resolutions to lose weight and eat better are proving hard to keep... good thing that something you're already doing is good for you!
we're not doctors here, so this is not medical advice
that said, drink beer! its good for you!

beer drinking often gets a bad reputation - beer bellies, drunken frat boys, career limiting moves. this is unfortunate because there are many health benefits that come with beer.
some are undisputed and don't change with the quantity of beer you drink
alas others you can only get through moderate drinking

we all remember the old advice guinness used to put in their ads "guinness is good for you", "guinness for strength" and "have a guinness when you're tired" because drinkers reported feeling better after a pint. Put down to being because of the iron content, Guinness used that as their advertising campaign for years. With changes in advertising laws Guinness now advises you drink in moderation and makes no health benefit claims at all. But - Guinness really IS good for you. A University of Wisconsin study found that Guinness "may work as well as a low dose aspirin to prevent heart clots that raise the risk of heart attacks" and strokes. Also, like red wine and dark chocolate, Guinness and other stouts also contain immune-boosting antioxidants, possibly strong enough to prevent cancer!

But that doesn't mean we should all run out and drink pint after pint of Guinness. Many other health benefits have been connected to beer in particular and alcohol in general. But all the advice agrees that moderation is the key. Moderation being one beer a day for women and two for men. Having one beer has been linked to better bone density in women, but as soon as you drink more alcohol that benefit turns into a detriment as high alcohol consumption is linked to weakening the bones. For the best bone-building benefits, reach for pale ale, since a 2010 study of 100 types of beer from around the word identified these brews as richest in silicon, while light lagers and non-alcoholic beers contained the least.

Keeping in mind that we're talking about drinking in moderation, these are the reported health benefits of drinking beer:

anticancer property
reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases
increased bone density
prevention of dementia and coronary disease
aiding digestive system
anti-aging properties
countering diabetes
kidney stones and osteoporosis
stress buster
reduce chromosomal damage from radiation (x-ray) exposure

Some interesting studies:

A study in Finland singled out beer among other alcoholic drinks, finding that each bottle of beer men drank daily lowered their risk of developing kidney stones by 40 percent. One theory is that beer’s high water content helped keep kidneys working, since dehydration increases kidney stone risk. It’s also possible that the hops in beer help curb leeching of calcium from bones; that “lost” calcium also could end up in the kidneys as stones.

A 2005 study tracking the health of 11,000 older women showed that moderate drinkers lowered their risk of mental decline by as much as 20 percent, compared to non-drinkers. In addition, older women who downed a drink a day scored as about 18 months “younger,” on average, on tests of mental skills than the non-drinkers.

A Portuguese study found that marinating steak in beer eliminates almost 70 percent of the carcinogens, called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) produced when the meat is pan-fried. Researchers theorize that beer’s sugars help block HCAs from forming.

A 2011 Harvard study of about 38,000 middle-aged men found that when those who only drank occasionally raised their alcohol intake to one to two beers or other drinks daily, their risk of developing type 2 diabetes dropped by 25 percent. The researchers found that alcohol increases insulin sensitivity, thus helping protect against diabetes.

A Harvard study of 70,000 women ages 25 to 40 found that moderate beer drinkers were less likely to develop high blood pressure—a major risk factor for heart attack—than women who sipped wine or spirits.

And that beer belly myth? A study by Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital followed 19,000 women over the course of 13 years and charted their weight gains. The moderate drinkers gained less weight than the tea-totallers and the heavier drinkers. So if you have a belly, blame it on a sedentary lifestyle and eating too much pub grub!

If all of the above isn't enough reason to have a pint tonight, there is also my favourite of the beer ingredients, hops! These little babies are jam-packed with health benefits (as well as being so darned tasty!):

- hops are a soporific, so if you suffer from insomnia, hops can help you sleep. my preferred method is through drinking an ipa, but also putting hops in a sachet and putting that in your pillow will work.
- the sedative properties of hops also help with nervousness and anxiety, promoting a sense of well-being and relaxation.
- hops can help with digestion and associated issues.
- hops contain two chemicals (humulone and lupulone) that can kill bacteria that cause spoiling.
- beer may also help reduce cancer risk. Studies suggest that Xanthohumol, a plant compound found in hops, may help prevent cancer, as well as reduce menopausal hot flashes

Tea is a more effective method of delivering the hops to your system than beer, but hey, if you're going to be drinking a beer anyway isn't it nice to know that it is working for your health and happiness?

Finally, the best news is the stuff I saved until the end.  Beer benefits that are not limited to those who exercise restraint and stop at one delicious beer a day:

- beer drinkers have 30% higher levels of Vitamin B than non-beer drinkers and TWICE the amount of wine drinkers.
- beer also contains vitamin B12, riboflavin, niacin, zinc, potassium, calcium, phosphorus and folic acid.
- beer and wine contain about the same levels of antioxidants
- beer is fat-free, cholesterol-free and low in carbohydrates
- beer is a source of dietary fibre - 5% of your recommended daily fibre intake per beer

i found this site particularly comprehensive

my beer picks:
from Epic Brewing Company in Auckland New Zealand: hop zombie ipa, with glow in the dark labels, and a mystery combination of new zealand and america hops
from Moon Under Water brewery in Victoria: potts pilsner - this is an unfiltered pilsner, so don't be alarmed that its a little cloudy - 38 ibus of saaz and cascade hops. at 5.2% its getting a little high for a session beer, but you're going to want more than one!
from Ninkasi Brewing Company in Eugene, Oregon: several styles will be arriving in lower mainland specialty liquor stores this week:  total domination ipa, believer double red ale, oatis oatmeal stout and renewale esb are not to be missed!

if you find yourself in Whistler stop by Whistler Brewing in Function Junction for a brewery tour and tasting
and the Brewhouse in the village where you can drink award-winning craft beer by the fireplace


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