It’s time to stand up for beer.
All together now: beer is good for you!
It seems astonishing that, in one of the world’s great brewing countries, we need to defend our national drink. But in recent years — and recent months in particular — a lot of damaging nonsense and plain unscientific rubbish has been written about beer.
Those of us who love beer — its taste, its joys, its history and its culture must get out the soap box and megaphone and proclaim its importance, not only to pleasure but also to our health.
New research shows that a moderate and sensible intake of beer is beneficial and can help prevent cancer, heart attacks, strokes, and kidney stones. According to reports in the Daily Telegraph and the Independent, beer can also decrease the risk of diabetes and Alzheimer’s and help build strong bones.
Earlier this month, the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society heard from researchers that a key ingredient in beer could be used in the fight against cancer. The hop plant does more than add aroma and bitterness to beer.
It contains acids called humulones and lupulones that have the ability to stop bacterial growth and disease. As a result of this research, scientists at the University of Idaho are looking at ways to extract the acids and use them in pharmaceuticals for cancer treatment.
At the School of Public Health at the prestigious Harvard University, researchers have found that middle-aged men who drink one or two glasses of beer each day reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 25%.
Dr Michael Joosten at Harvard studied 38,000 middle-aged men and concluded that the alcohol content in beer is insulin sensitive, which helps prevent diabetes. He added that beer is also a good source of fibre, a dietary material that helps to control blood sugar and plays an important role in the diet of people suffering from diabetes.
Dr Tero Hirvonen of the National Public Health Institute of Helsinki led a team of Finnish researchers, who suggested, last year, that the risk of developing kidney stones decreases with increasing beer consumption. Dr Hirvonen and his team used their detailed study of 27,000 middle-aged men to conclude that a bottle of beer consumed every day was estimated to reduce the risk of stones by 40%.
The research goes on. A team at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania found that dark ales can reduce the incidence of heart attacks. Atherosclerosis — when artery walls become furred with cholesterol — is known to cause heart problems, but Dr Joe Vinson, a professor and lead author of the study, revealed that dark beer can cut the risk of the disease.
Studies by both Harvard Medical School and the American Stroke Association have found that people who drink moderate amounts of beer can cut their risks of strokes by up to 50% compared to non-drinkers.
Beer contains high levels of silicon that promote bone growth. Researchers at Tufts University in Massachusetts found that one or two glasses of beer a day could significantly reduce risks to bones. Silicon can also protect against the harmful effects of aluminium in the body, one of the possible causes of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
At odds with UK advice
All of this detailed research is at odds with the much-trumpeted call earlier in January by the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, that both men and women should restrict their alcohol consumption to just 14 units a week. Everything was absurd about this call. It’s crude to lump together all forms of alcohol, especially as red and white wines are increasing in strength.
Beer, of which 95% is made up of water, is the weakest and safest form of alcohol. Instead of the blanket term ‘alcohol’, Professor Davies should have differentiated between beer, wine and spirits. She should also explain why Spaniards, whose “Mediterranean diet” is acknowledged as one of the healthiest in the word, are recommended to drink up to 35 units of alcohol a week.
Professor Davies added that one glass of white wine can increase the risk of cancer. I am not competent to say whether this is true or not but the good professor, looking at the American and Finnish research detailed above, could have advised us that beer, on the other hand, will reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases.
She didn’t say that because it’s not politically correct in this country to suggest that beer could be beneficial to health. Most media outlets are quick to play up any occasional example of bad behaviour by a tiny minority of beer drinkers to suggest the country is going to hell in the famous handcart.
It’s time to put the record straight. Moderate beer drinking, far from harming you, is likely to keep you healthy and free from illness.
As one wise writer once said: “I feel wonderful, drinking beer, in a blissful mood, with joy in the heart and a happy liver”. That was written in Ancient Mesopotamia, 3000BC.
Here’s to happy livers.