Al eerder werd bekend dat twee glazen wijn per dag gezond is. Nieuw onderzoek toont aan dat hetzelfde geldt voor bier. Beide dranken bevatten stoffen die vrije radicalen in het lichaam aanvallen en de hoeveelheid van het goede cholesterol verhogen. Bier zou daarom goed zijn tegen de ziektes van Alzheimer en Parkinson, tegen maagzweren en zelfs tegen bepaalde vormen van kanker.
In dit artikel wordt zelfs, terecht, gezegd dat alleen al, ook zonder naar lichamelijke processen te kijken, het genieten van dit soort dranken gezond is. Dezelfde redenering gaat volgens ons en wetenschappers als Jan Snel aan de Universiteit van Amsterdam, ook op voor roken.
Polyphenols act as antioxidants, which are substances that scavenge free radicals from the body (free radicals are chemicals that can cause the type of cellular damage that can change healthy cells to cancerous ones). The presence of antioxidants in the bloodstream can inhibit or prevent some types of cancer, by ridding the body of these free radicals. All of which was good news for wine drinkers, and made sales of red wine go through the roof. Beer drinkers, on the other hand were left to wonder why there were no apparent healthful benefits from their beverage of choice.
As it turns out, however, red wine is not the only healthy alcoholic beverage. Follow up studies to the “60 Minutes” story have found that moderate daily intake of beer also has many of the desirable effects of red wine, and then some. Both beer and wine have been shown to thin the blood slightly, reducing the risk of blood clots, stroke, and arthosclerosis, or thickening of the arteries, which can lead to heart attacks. They both may also help ward off development or progression of neurological and neurodegenerative disorders like senile dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, although research on this front is still ongoing.
And beer has also been found to decrease blood levels of cholesterol, specifically the level of oxidized low-density lipoprotein or LDL cholesterol, known as bad cholesterol. A study at the University of Western Ontario that measured cholesterol in subjects before and after they drank two beers showed lower levels of LDL cholesterol after the beer was consumed. This is most likely due to polyphenols present in barley malt, which appear to have the same effect as the polyphenols in red wine.
Other research has focused on flavonoids, which are polyphenol compounds responsible for the dark colors in fruits, vegetables, tea, chocolate, red wine, and beer. These compounds have also been proven to prevent oxidation of cholesterol, along with inhibiting allergies, inflammation, and cancer development and growth. Flavonoids are more plentiful in dark beer and red wine than in pale beer and white wine.
Before we all get excited and start drinking like sailors on leave, there is a caveat — moderation. The most positive effects resulted from consumption of two beers daily. After more than three beers the level of good (HDL) cholesterol was reduced. Similarly, while a 2003 study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found that daily moderate use of wine or beer lessens the likelihood of developing stomach ulcers, and possibly inhibits the growth of ulcer-causing H. pylori bacteria, higher consumption was shown to actually increase the risk of developing ulcers.
The good news is that the reason we all drink in the first place, the relaxing buzz that we all enjoy, is beneficial also. The tranquilizing effect of beer or wine, that familiar sensation of well-being that comes after the first drink or two, is actually good for us, helping us to relax and de-stress. Accompanying this mild euphoria in beer drinkers is a slight energizing effect from the natural malt sugars present in beer, which helps slough off the rigors of a taxing day and thus facilitates better enjoyment of leisure time. In short, drinking beer makes us happy, and happiness is good for our health and well-being.
When you look at the nutritional composition of beer versus wine, beer clearly stands head and shoulders above. Malted barley gives beer carbohydrates (although ounce for ounce, less than apple juice or cider), essential and non-essential amino acids, and over 30 different minerals and trace elements, including magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Beer has more vitamin B than wine, including B6, B12, folic acid, and niacin, along with lesser amounts of vitamins A, D and E.
Two pints of beer provide 60 percent of the minimum daily requirement of Niacin, 50 percent of magnesium, 40 percent of phosphorus, 35 percent of vitamin B6, and 20 percent of both vitamin B2 and potassium. Unfiltered beers like hefe-weizen, wit beer, and cask ales also contain additional B vitamins from the yeast still in the beer. Brewers yeast is so vitamin packed that people that don’t even drink beer take it as a stand-alone vitamin supplement.
And lastly, hops in beer are a natural sedative and complement the relaxing effects of the alcohol. The bitterness that hops impart stimulates the palate and appetite, making beer the perfect aperitif. A recently discovered compound in hops called xanthohumol is getting a lot of attention from the scientific community (see related story) for its potential in fighting cancer.