Drinking beer might have unexpected health benefits, according to recent research suggesting it could promote gut health and enhance the immune system when consumed in moderation.
The study, conducted by the Dalian Medical University in China, found that beer, when consumed moderately, could stimulate the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. This effect is attributed to several key ingredients found in beer, including polyphenols, fiber, and ethanol. Surprisingly, these components were found to be more effective at enhancing the immune system than probiotics.
Probiotics are known for their potential health benefits as they contain live bacteria and yeasts that can help restore the natural balance of gut bacteria, particularly after disruptions caused by illnesses. Foods like kimchi, kombucha, cheese, and yogurt are rich in probiotics.
The research highlights beer’s potential health benefits, stating that “beer is rich in many essential amino acids, vitamins, trace elements, and bioactive substances that are involved in the regulation of many human physiological functions.”
While this may sound like good news for beer enthusiasts, it’s crucial to remember that moderation is key. Both the NHS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide guidelines for alcohol consumption. In the UK, adults are advised not to exceed 14 units of alcohol per week, which equates to approximately six pints of beer. It’s also recommended to spread alcohol consumption over three or more days to avoid binge drinking.
Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol over an extended period is already associated with various health issues, including high blood pressure, an increased risk of stroke, and several types of cancer.
The study suggests that “beer bioactives” could potentially be used in future products, including “health beers” designed to prevent diseases like arteriosclerosis, heart disease, and improve blood circulation. However, it’s important to note that these findings are preliminary, and such products are not yet available.
Despite the potential benefits, the study emphasizes that these positive effects are limited to moderate beer consumption. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to serious health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and various types of cancer.
Professor Naveed Sattar, a specialist in cardiovascular and metabolic health at the University of Glasgow, cautioned against overlooking the harmful effects of alcohol. He emphasized that while some beer ingredients may have positive impacts on health, these benefits can be outweighed by the detrimental effects of alcohol itself.
To minimize health risks associated with alcohol, both men and women are advised not to regularly consume more than 14 units of alcohol per week, according to NHS guidelines.