By John Salak –
Americans just love their beer. It is their favorite alcoholic drink by far. Doesn’t matter the form or source—larger or ale, big brewery or craft maker—U.S. adults buy almost $95 billion of various brews every year. In case anyone is wondering, the average American 21 and older downs just over 28 gallons annually, according to BeerInfo.com.
Ultimately, the bigger issue facing beer isn’t its popularity but whether it offers any benefits for consumers, besides possibly revving them up at a ballgame, barbecue or Octoberfest party in Gary, Indiana.
Not surprisingly, there are all sorts of legends surrounding its benefits. The British and Irish have long claimed the Guinness, that amazing stout, is so nutritious and filled with iron that expectant moms should down at least a pint a day. Given the current concerns over pregnant women ingesting alcohol, this marketing ploy admittedly has probably seen better days.
Few question that drinking too much beer can lead to all sorts of health problems.
It can lead to substantial weight gain and possibly obesity. But that’s only one issue—and perhaps a relatively minor concern compared to its ability to increase the risk of depression, alcohol dependence, liver disease and cancer, particularly of the throat and mouth, according to Healthline.com.
Research Society on Alcoholism also reported that chronically heavy drinkers have a higher risk of early death than those who consume moderately or not at all.
None of these concerns are marked as plusses for beer. However, the beverage does deal out several benefits, especially for those who don’t overindulge.
It is by far the most nutritious alcoholic beverage, holding its own in terms of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants with wine. Piedmont Healthcare also reports that beer can be heart healthy, prevent kidney stones, lower bad cholesterol, strengthen bones, reduce stress and support cognitive functions.
WebMd.com chimed in on its benefits as well, noting that moderate consumption can improve blood sugar control and consequently lower the risk of diabetes.
These benefits are impressive. New research, however, has added another tantalizing possibility. Especially hoppy beers may be able to protect people against Alzheimer’s disease.
Chemistry For Life, a nonprofit organization, just released research showing the chemicals in hops can inhibit the clumping of amyloid beta proteins, which has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
The discovery is linked to the use of “nutraceuticals,” or foods that have some type of medicinal or nutritional function. Ultimately, hops and or hoppy beers may help address one of the greatest challenges in treating Alzheimer’s: the gap between the time the disease begins to take hold and the appearance of symptoms. This lag of several years means irreversible damage can occur to an individual’s nervous system before the disease is recognized and treatment begins.
Applying preventative strategies and therapeutics, such as hops-based nutraceuticals, offer one possible option to thwart the spread of disease before symptoms appear.
The existing and possible benefits of beer, of course, come with a caveat. The gains should not be seen as a license or an encouragement to party hardy with a keg. Physicians, in fact, are reluctant to comment on these benefits for fear they’ll encourage excessive consumption.
Ultimately, however, a beer or two a day, coupled with a healthy diet and an active lifestyle may just be a win-win.