To quote Homer Simpson: “Here’s to alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”
As tongue in cheek as that may sound there’s some truth in those oft repeated words; it turns out that that most famous of adult beverages isn’t all bad. That frosty pint has very genuine, scientifically proven health benefits.
So the next time you’re knocking one (or a few) back – (try to) remember the incredible health benefits of this foamy, delicious, and internationally recognized drink.
Now, without further ado, we’ll look at exactly what’s in that beer, and I’ll show you the eight ways that beer can benefit your health.
What Is Beer?
To many people, this may sound like a silly question – but it’s important to have a good understanding of this beautiful beverage.
There are only four ingredients that – with a considerable degree of skill – go into creating a drink so important to human history that it’s called ‘liquid bread’ in that famous homeland of superior brews; Germany.
Beer is essentially water, hops, grain, and yeast.
The grain (typically barley) is called the malt, and this is what the yeast ferments to produce the alcohol content. Hops reduce the sweetness of the malt and give the beer its distinctive taste. Besides barley, the grains that can be used to brew beer include; wheat, rice, corn or even various fruits or herbs.
The alcohol content of beer can range from less than 3% to over 40%, but most ales and lagers are within the 4% – 6% range.
As few as the ingredients that go into making your beer are; so is the list of health benefits long.
Let’s start with my favorite:
1) Beer Boosts Your Creativity
As counterintuitive as it may sound – it’s entirely true and backed by science. Researchers had forty test subjects watch a movie while trying to solve word puzzles, except that some of them had a blood alcohol level that would have gotten them a DUI in almost every US state.
The surprising conclusion? Test subjects with a blood alcohol level of .075 consistently outperformed their sober counterparts.
But, why is this so amazing? A blood alcohol level of .08 is characterized by
- Definite impairment of muscle coordination
- Impaired driving skills
- Increased risk of nausea
- Slurred speech
And yet, the sober test subjects couldn’t keep up with the drinkers! This goes a long way to explain the large number of (successful) wordsmiths who regularly enjoy a healthy drink.
2) Never Worry About Kidney Stones
Raise a cold one and celebrate having one less health worry; researchers in Finland have discovered that for every glass of beer you drink, you’ll also reduce your risk of developing (mind numbingly painful) kidney stones by 40%!
The exact reasons why beer has this protective effect aren’t at all understood but, there are two interesting theories:
- The diuretic effect of alcohol keeps the kidneys working hard recycling that brew every time you go to the restroom
- Hops may have the effect of slowing the release of calcium from your bones that can settle down and form (what feels like) mountain sized boulders in your urinary tract
3) Who Needs Beer Goggles?
It’s true that alcohol can change the way you perceive things, but this is different.
Research published in the Archives of Ophthalmology has demonstrated that alcohol consumption equivalent to just one daily stout or lager will increase the antioxidant activity that can prevent the formation of cataracts in your eyes.
A caveat: they also found that test subjects who had more than three drinks experienced the opposite effect. Moderation was the key.
So pop open that can and say cheers to clear eyesight!
4) Hops Can Prevent Cancer
Tell this one to the next person who disparages your love of beer. A flavonoids compound found in hops called Xanthohumol has proven anti-cancer properties that play a major role in the chemoprevention of prostate and other cancers.
Like wine, beer also contains health enhancing polyphenols (from the fermented grain) that also play a major role in fighting cancer.
5) Get Your B Vitamins
A Dutch study has confirmed that regular beer drinkers have B vitamin levels up to 30% higher levels of B6 and B12than non-drinkers. While wine drinkers also had significantly higher levels of B vitamins in their blood, the beer drinkers had B vitamin levels that were twice as high. Don’t just drink to someone’s health – drink for your health; B vitamins are essential for the health of your nerves, brain function, and energy metabolism.
6) Drink Beer to Prevent Stroke
Multiple studies have proven a correlation between beer drinking and a reduced risk of suffering a debilitating stroke.
Ischemic stroke risk is cut by up to 50% in moderate beer drinkers as compared to teetotalers. Ischemic strokes are the most common type of stroke and happen when a blood clot blocks oxygen to the affected part of the brain.
Incredibly, drinking beer makes your arteries and blood vessels more flexible; improving your blood flow significantly. This increased flexibility and blood flow make it much harder for a clot to form – no clot, no stroke.
7) Beer Keeps Your Mind Sharp As You Age
Forget the stereotype of the forgetful, absent minded drinker; studies going back to the late 1970’s strongly indicate that regular beer drinkers are up to 24% less likely to suffer from the cognitive impairment that usually comes with old age.
Current science still hasn’t come up with the reason why, although some researchers theorize that this benefit is related to the salubrious effect alcohol has on the cardiovascular system, certain flavonoids or the way booze can raise ‘good’ cholesterol levels.
It’s interesting to note that beer contains relatively high silicon levels compared to other drinks, and silicon is believed to protect your brain from the harmful effects of environmental aluminum.
8) Have a Beer before Bed
Beer consumption has been found to stimulate the production of dopamine in our brains – dopamine is a sedative hormone that has been prescribed by doctors to help insomniacs get the rest they need.
Strangely enough, just tasting beer will increase your dopamine levels! According to researchers all anyone needs is about one tablespoon to enjoy this calming effect – so don’t over do it.