Sometimes there’s nothing better than cracking open a cold beer after a long day. We tend to view beer as a guilty pleasure — maybe because we associate all those suds with a beer gut and inevitable weight gain. But you’ll be happy to hear that, when consumed in moderation (we repeat, moderation), the benefits of a pint of beer may go far beyond helping you wind down after a stressful week.
What exactly constitutes “drinking in moderation," anyway? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines it as one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men. While research does show there is room for imbibing as part of a balanced, healthy diet, they also advise not to start drinking if you currently abstain. But if you do keep a six-pack in the fridge, pop one open and say "cheers" to these potential health benefits.
It contributes to our daily nutrient intake
According to a study published in “The American Journal of the Medical Sciences,” beer contains more protein and B vitamins than wine. Charlie Bamforth, a professor of brewing sciences at the University of California, Davis, also claims that beer trumps wine when it comes to B vitamins, phosphorus, folate and niacin. Beer also has significant protein and some fiber. And it is one of a few significant dietary sources of silicon, which research shows can help prevent osteoporosis. Preliminary research by Bamforth also suggests that beer may contain prebiotics that feed the good bacteria in our gut.
It may lower the risk for diabetes.
A study published in the “Journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes” found that people who drink 3 to 4 times per week were less likely to develop diabetes than those who never drink. And when compared to those who didn't drink beer, men who enjoyed between one and six beers per week had a 21 percent lower risk of diabetes.
It may make your heart healthier
Wine tends to be the choice on the bar menu associated with a healthy heart. But there’s reason to love beer for the same reason. A preliminary study presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2016 followed 80,000 participants for six years and found that moderate drinkers had the slowest decline in high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, levels — and in turn, a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases. Research also shows that of men who have already suffered a heart attack, those that drank beer moderately were 42% less likely to die of heart disease.
It may build stronger bones
Move over milk — could there be a new bone-building beverage in the fridge? A review published in the “International Journal of Endocrinology” found that moderate beer consumption increased bone density in men. No, it’s not the buzz that’s helping those bones grow: it may be the silicon found in your pint, which is an essential mineral for bone formation.
It may boost brain power
Another benefit of having silicon on the ingredients list? It helps protect your brain from compounds thought to eventually cause cognitive diseases. Which may be why researchers at Loyola University in Chicago found that moderate beer drinkers are 23 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s and dementia than those who don’t drink beer. Another explanation: Beer is shown to raise good cholesterol which improves blood flow to the brain. And ordering a few pints may give you a boost at trivia night. According to one study, people with a slight beer buzz solved puzzles faster than their sober counterparts. In fact, alcohol made subjects almost 30 percent more likely to find the unexpected solution.
It cleans your teeth
A study published in the Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology found that beer can keep bacteria from forming — and growing — on your teeth. The researchers tested the effects of beer extracts on the bacteria that form biofilm and promote tooth decay and gum disease, and found that even the weakest extract of beer tested blocked the activity of bacteria. Beer was also one of the best extracts for blocking communication between bacteria, which slows their growth. Good old Guinness was the beer they used in testing — another reason to channel your inner Irishman at the bar.
It may reduce inflammation
Next time your spouse asks why you’re still at the bar, tell them you’re fighting inflammation. Inflammation in the body is the underlying cause behind many diseases, and according to a study published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, hops (an essential ingredient in beer) has anti-inflammatory properties. The researchers compared the anti-inflammatory effect of different hops and found that the consumption of hops in beer form interfered with inflammation causing compounds.
It may make you live longer
A study conducted by a psychologist at the University of Texas found that people who drink moderately live longer than those who don’t. But don't use it as a license to binge drink this weekend because heavy alcohol use can negatively impact your health. The jury is still out, but studies suggest that a healthy amount of beer can add years to your life, given that it positively impacts cholesterol levels, lowers your risk of diabetes and strengthens your heart.