Have a Healthy Beer

This public domain image is from a 1904 Hawaiian newspaper ad touting the health benefits of Primo Beer. The ad included these words: “Every doctor knows how Beer benefits. If you need more strength or vitality, he will prescribe it. For run-down, nervous people, there is no better tonic and nutrient than a glass of good PRIMO BEER with meals. For well people, nothing is so conducive to continued good health.”

I once got so sick of stories about how wine is good for you that I set out in search of research about the benefits of beer. The resulting story appeared in scores of newspapers in the early part of this century. I forget when exactly, but you can Google it. I was known as Gannett’s Beer Man at the time, if that helps.

I was recently reminded of those beery benefits when Linda Laarman, writer of the Older and Wiser series, recently forwarded a story to me titled “Could a Few Beers a Week Cut a Woman’s Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk?”

The story from the April 2014 issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism gave highlights of two Nurses’ Health Study reports that were summed up with this good news for women and the alcohol industry:

“Overall, moderate use of any form of alcohol reduced the risk of rheumatoid arthritis by about 21 percent, but moderate beer drinking – two to four beers per week – cut women’s odds for the disease by nearly a third, the study found.”

In her email, Linda wrote that the studies referenced “involve a large swath of women and frequently seem to result in findings that the medical community and others find pretty trustworthy.

“I’m going to the store today and buying some beer. (I promise not to buy ‘lite’ or anything in one of those other categories you said not to buy a couple weeks ago!) I haven’t had much of the stuff for years (more the red wine person) but now am going to start on my 2 to 4 a week. My mother and her sister were both diagnosed with RA late in life. Both the disease and the treatment were nasty. How pleasant to think about the possibility of staving off a similar fate with a beer now and then.”

Wow! The takeaway is that all booze is good for you, in moderation of course, but beer is best. I knew it all along!

Here are some more beery health facts:

• Moderate imbibers of any alcoholic drinks are less likely to suffer from heart disease according to a 2008 Journal of the American Dietetic Association article. Experts believe alcohol improves heart health by making blood less sticky so it’s less likely to clot by increasing levels of “good” HDL cholesterol while lowering unhealthy LDL cholesterol.

• According to an article in the Winter 2011 issue of the American Dietetic Association Times, researchers found that beer lowered the risk of kidney stones in men compared to other alcoholic beverages, possibly due to its high water content and diuretic effect. Compounds in hops may also slow the release of calcium from bone that is implicated in kidney stones.

• The barley in beer contains beta-glucans – a type of soluble fiber credited with improving heart health by lowering cholesterol levels. A 12-ounce bottle of lager sports 0.75 grams of fiber while the same amount of dark beer boasts 1.3 grams.

• Beer is a source of B vitamins such as folate, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and vitamins B6 and B12. One 12-ounce beer supplies three percent of the B12 and 12.5 percent of the vitamin B6 you need in a day. These two nutrients keep your heart healthy by lowering levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that may damage your arteries and encourage blood clots to form.

• While heavy drinking can weaken bones, a couple of beers a day can make them stronger. Beer is rich in silicon, an element found in few foods and drinks, which has been linked to stronger bones. In a Tufts University study, men who drank between one to two beers a day had hip bone densities three-and-a-half to four-and-a-half times greater than teetotalers.

So, belly up and take your liquid medicine!