Probably all of us have come across the statement by the Swiss physician known as the father of modern medicine, Paracelsus, 'Everything is poison and nothing is poison. Only the dose makes a substance not a poison'. It's hard not to agree with this statement, because it has been proven time and time again that something that seems to work only against you can have a beneficial effect if used properly. Beer is no different, because - as in the case of red wine - it has been proven to have a positive effect on the human body, provided it is consumed in small quantities.
Macro and micro elements contained in beer
Let us start with the basics, however, i.e. how many calories does beer have in general? Unfortunately, it is impossible to answer this question unequivocally. It depends on many factors: initial extract, final extract, alcohol content, additives used (e.g. lactose) etc. Most often, however, it will be between 40 and 70 calories per 100 millilitres of beer. Of course, these values may be higher or lower.
Unfortunately, even the tastiest beer is still "empty" calories. This drink contains almost no nutritional value in terms of macronutrients. Most of the calories that the golden beverage provides us with are carbohydrates, and it should be noted that these are not good "carbs", such as those found in oatmeal, for example. The carbohydrates that beer provides us with are those with a high glycaemic index. This means that they will give us energy, or more precisely, a sudden burst of it. However, only a few moments later, this energy will drop just as quickly. Another "filler" of these calories is alcohol. Beer also contains trace amounts of protein.
In this light, beer looks rather poor, but when we enter the world of micronutrients, it comes off much better, as a pint of brew provides us with a number of vitamins and minerals.
As far as vitamins are concerned, we will mainly find B vitamins in beer, i.e. riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), choline (B4), pantothenic acid (B5) and folic acid (B9), cobalamin (B12). When it comes to minerals, beer contains potassium, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon and selenium, among others.
All these vitamins and minerals play important roles in the human body. For example, riboflavin supports the immune system and regulates the metabolism of serotonin and dopamine, thus counteracting depression. In turn, niacin affects the proper functioning of the brain and the entire nervous system, participates in reactions leading to the production of energy and ... we could go on and on, but this article is not intended to show the positive impact of vitamins on the human body.
It is also worth noting that, of the above-mentioned micronutrients, much more can be found in beers which have undergone refermentation, i.e. beers with yeast sediment at the bottom of the bottle. In other words, home brewed beers.
At this point, however, we need to draw attention to a certain paradox. Beer obviously contains alcohol and, unfortunately, too much of it inhibits the absorption of vitamins, minerals and nutrients by the body. In order for beer to have a positive effect on our bodies, we should limit ourselves to one bottle of beer a day.
Beer for healthy bones?
One of beer's (it would seem) myths is that beer is good for the bones.
It is true! Beer can have a positive effect on our bones. A study carried out by Spanish researchers confirms that regular beer consumption has a good effect on bone tissue, which can prevent osteoporosis, for example. They were performed on a group of 1693 women, which strengthens their credibility.
Interestingly, other studies have proven the beneficial effects of alcohol in general on bones. This is due to several factors, although the main one seems to be the direct effect of ethanol (it inhibits bone resorption) and the action of various phytochemicals contained in alcoholic beverages. In the case of beer, an additional positive factor is the high silicon content. What is important, silicon contained in the golden beverage has a very high bioavailability. As much as 64% of this element in non-alcoholic beer can be absorbed by the body. For example, the bioavailable silicon from a banana is around 4%.
Half a bottle of beer = a heart like a bell!
A study published in July 2021 in the esteemed academic journal, BMC Medicine talks about the positive effects of alcohol on our heart.
Conducted on a group of almost 50,000 people, the study says that light alcohol consumption can lower the risk of heart attack, stroke, as well as reduce the risk of death in people who are already struggling with heart disease. Such 'therapy' is particularly effective in the latter - the risk of dying from heart disease complications (compared to non-drinkers with similar problems) can be reduced by as much as 50%.
Here, however, the results are strongly dependent on the amount of alcohol consumed, as significant improvements were noted in those drinking up to an average of 15 grams of pure alcohol per day.
Additionally - a 2019 study found that alcohol has a good effect on the hearts of older people struggling with organ failure. Having up to seven drinks a week (where one should have about 14 grams of pure alcohol) can apparently prolong their lives relative to people of a similar age who do not consume alcohol at all.
One bottle of beer with an alcohol content of 5% equals about 25 grams of pure alcohol, so drinking half a bottle of beer provides us with an amount of alcohol which should have a rather positive effect on our heart. However, if we drink the whole bottle, we will also experience a positive effect on the heart, but it will be slightly lower - 15 grams is the "ideal" dose.
Importantly, heavy drinking can have quite the opposite effect to light or moderate alcohol consumption.
Beer for better sleep?
The answer to this question may be surprising, because the fact that alcohol can make falling asleep easier is a fact. However, this does not mean that it is a good sleep companion.
Research confirms that (as mentioned above), alcohol does make it easier to fall asleep. What's more - the initial phases of sleep after alcohol can be deeper than in the case of sleep without prior alcohol consumption. However, there is also a catch here, and as they say - the further into the forest the worse. During the study, the quality of sleep decreased with every hour of sleep. This was evidenced by less intense eye movement in the REM phase, i.e. the deep sleep phase. The decrease in quality was so great that, in the final analysis, sleep after alcohol was of much lower quality than sleep without it.
Irshaad Ebrahim, medical director at the London Sleep Centre in the UK, states that drinking large amounts of alcohol can have an impact on the severity of so-called sleep apnoea, or uncontrolled pauses in breathing during sleep. It says such symptoms can occur after drinking a dose of alcohol greater than that in 2 standard drinks (about 30ml of pure alcohol).
Beer and an increased appetite
Probably everyone has had a long sit-down with a good beer in a good group. Often in such situations, we face a huge, hard to control hunger, despite the fact that not so long ago we ate a full meal.
This is because the effort our body makes to process alcohol lowers its sugar level. This is because alcohol is actually treated as a poison by our body, so the body tries to neutralise it as quickly as possible. This also explains why after alcohol we crave food that is fatty, high in carbohydrates, and generally unhealthy. We need energy to fight this poison.
Additionally, every alcoholic drink, not only beer, activates the part of the brain responsible for the production of sleep, thirst, mood, libido and hunger hormones. This is the so-called hypothalamus. These hormones can be produced in such quantities that we can feel hunger when we are full. The AGRP hormone is normally activated when the body suffers from hunger and needs food, but during alcohol intoxication, and thus a temporary impairment of the aforementioned hypothalamus, an overproduction of these hormones occurs.
Health-promoting properties of the hops contained in beer
One of the many substances to look out for in hops is xanthohumol. This is a flavonoid derived from the female flowers of hops, which is exactly what is used in brewing.
Xanthohumol is a very strong, in fact one of the strongest antioxidants - it has an effect 4 times stronger than vitamin C. It is characterised by strong anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antiviral and antimalarial properties. It is also used in cosmetology as it is very good for the skin. It can also help treat certain skin conditions, such as psoriasis. In addition, it kills free radicals, which are responsible for faster ageing of our body.
Besides, research conducted at the University of Oregon says that this flavonoid has anti-cancer properties. Already the first research on this substance as a supposed cancer-fighting agent confirmed that xanthohumol has such properties, and the substance is still being studied. Unfortunately, xanthohumol is not found in beer in such large quantities that it can actually reduce the growth of cancer cells, but it still has antioxidant properties. It is comforting to know that attempts are being made to produce beer with a much higher amount of this flavonoid so that it can actually have an effect on cancer.
Hops also show sedative properties and are good for sleep. This is confirmed by a study whose results were published in 2012. A group of 17 nurses took a dose of 330 ml of non-alcoholic beer every evening for 14 days. After this time, a better quality of sleep was confirmed in them. In addition, anxiety levels as measured by the STAI questionnaire decreased in the treatment group. Of course, a group of 17 people is a very small research sample, but this is one of many similar studies confirming such effects of hops.
Another often popularised myth is that beer helps us fight a cold. There is some truth in this, as the humulon contained in hops does indeed exhibit such properties. However, few people pay attention to a rather important factor, which is the fact that in order for humulon contained in beer to have any effect on our cold, we would need to drink about... 20 bottles of beer! 20 bottles! Nevertheless, one thing is certain. After drinking so much beer, the common cold is not the most important problem and recedes into the background. Apart from that, studies which have been carried out have shown the effect of humulon on one type of virus which causes colds, namely the RSV virus (respiratory syncytial virus).
The influence of the yeast contained in a bottle of beer
Of course, when talking about beer, especially home brewed beer, we must not forget about the amazing properties of yeast, one of the reasons why beer is such a rich source of B vitamins. In addition, they also provide many of the previously mentioned minerals in finished beer. Yeast helps, for example, fight obesity because it improves intestinal perpactosis, reduces cravings for sweets, and has a positive effect on the condition of hair and nails. It is recommended for overtired people.
Healthy beer baths?
If you've ever heard of someone taking a beer bath and didn't believe it, you're wrong. Beer baths are particularly popular with our southern neighbours - the Czechs. As they claim - the practice relieves stress, cleanses the skin and releases toxins from the body. It turns out that the Czechs are not wrong. According to the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, the ingredients in beer, including humulon and xanthohumon, have a huge impact on our skin and hair.
Beer spas can be found in the larger Czech cities. They offer you the chance to bathe in tubs filled with beer! According to them, such a bath can influence:
reduction of stress,
detoxify the body,
reduction of back and joint pain.
Beer is a delicate alcoholic beverage, as can be seen from the fact that in Russia this drink was only recognised as alcohol in 2013. Moderate consumption of the golden beverage can bring many benefits to our body, however, while savouring its taste, we must remember that one of its components is alcohol. Unfortunately, alcohol becomes addictive very quickly and in large quantities can lead to nausea, imbalance, memory loss and many behaviours that we wouldn't even think of when sober. In this text, we are not encouraging the consumption of alcohol or beer as such - our goal is to spread knowledge about this drink and show that it can be used as a positive influence on our body. Provided that it is used wisely.