Beer: Everyone's favorite new health food

Brad Cohen

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When you think of the stereotypical craft beer drinker, images of things like flannel, beards, and rotund bellies come to mind. But now you can add 'health nut' to that picture. Sort of.


According to a recent study by Professor Mike McCullough and Richard Volpe of California Polytechnic State University, craft beer is the healthiest thing since, well, wine.

McCullough claims that while you've probably listened to some oenophile waxing poetic about antioxidants and heart health as they sneakily pour their third glass of rosé, it turns out that craft beer drinkers have a reason to respond with, "Well, actually..."

“We all know that a glass of red wine is good for you, but it turns outs a pint of craft beer is better, it has got more good things in it,” McCullough said.

Those "good things' include niacin, vitamin B3 and brewers yeast, which is known to lower bad cholesterol.

McCullough and Volpe aren't the first to discover the health benefits of beer. The study cites several other reports touting health benefits ranging from inhibiting cancer growth at the cellular level – thanks to xanthohumol, a flavonoid found in hops; lowering the chances of getting coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes; and a range of other health benefits from nutrients not found in wine or spirits, like fiber, minerals, and B vitamins.

Of course, this doesn't mean you can just go pounding a 6-pack of Heineken every night after work, bro. The ideal daily consumption is somewhere between 20 and 39.9 grams per day (approximately 1.43 to 2.85 drink equivalents). And just as important: Not all beer is created equal.

Depending on the amount of rice or malted barley or residual brewer’s yeast remaining after filtration, the amount of beneficial niacin can vary hugely. Many craft beers are unfiltered (or less filtered/pasteurized) than mass-produced beers, therefore leaving more nutrients in the bottle. But as of now, there is no way to tell the health content of any particular beer.

According to the study, major corporations like Anheuser-Busch InBev, Molson Coors, Constellation Brands, and Heineken have all agreed to provide nutrition facts on labels by 2020. But those will focus on calories, carbohydrates, protein, and fat content – not vitamins or minerals.

So does all this mean you should add two bottles of artisanally brewed, unfiltered, local beer produced using wild fermentation? Who knows. But if nothing else, this study can make you feel a little better about supporting craft beer at your local happy hour – and give you some ammo to throw back at your wino friends next time they start going on about the health benefits of their pinot noir.


Brad Cohen

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