Beer – Good for Quaffing, Good for Your Heart
May 18, 2004
"A quart of ale is a dish for a king ." - William Shakespeare
"It’s good to be the king." – Mel Brooks
In recent years, wine has been the beverage that has gotten all the good press when it comes to the health benefits related to moderate consumption of alcohol. Beer, it seems, still is thought of in many quarters as a beverage made for quaffing, good at a ballgame or a barbecue but without any benefits to speak of.
But that may be changing.
A new study done by researchers in Finland and the Netherlands suggests that regular consumption of beer can lead to better cardiovascular health – especially if you are a middle-aged man or a pre-menopausal woman. For millions of aging baby boomers who have felt guilty about pouring a cold and frosty beer and instead turned to a more delicate pinot noir or chardonnay, this will be welcomed news.
It appears, based on the study – and more research needs to be done – that beer actually helps the circulation of the hormones that prevent atherosclerosis for men and women. Atherosclerosis results from the buildup of fatty substances, cholesterol, cellular waste products, calcium and other materials in the arteries and is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
These results back up research done in the US several years ago suggesting that alcohol – including beer - has a positive effect on HDL cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol that promotes heart health.
Now, this doesn’t mean that people worried about their cardiovascular health should belly up to the bar instead of going to gym or hitting the salad bar. In fact, there are ways to achieve these benefits without touching a beer, including getting more exercise and eating more fruits and vegetables.
And, in fact, there has been a study done by German researchers suggesting that nonalcoholic beer may offer some of the same cardiovascular benefits associated with moderate alcohol consumption. The suggestion is that the health benefits don’t come from the alcohol, but rather from other substances that are contained in nonalcoholic beer and that seem to have an impact on factors leading to heart disease.
(This conclusion, however, reminds us of the old saying that dates back to Prohibition: "Whoever called it near beer was a poor judge of distance.")
There are more good and interesting beers available in the U.S. than ever before. While the brewpub craze of a few years has died out, there still are an enormous number of microbreweries around the country that are making unique beers, pilsners and ales that run the gamut from delicate to robust. Now that there is some medical research to back it up, it sounds like people actually can indulge in the occasional brew and feel good about it…especially if they are doing all the other things that go into a healthy and active lifestyle.
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