Beer: Is It Good for You?

Beer is one of the oldest beverages in the world. Beer recipes can be found in Egyptian tombs, Mesopotamian archeological sites, and Babylonian texts. Today, beer is found in grocery stores and breweries around the world. People are even rediscovering the joy of making beer at home. 

Beer is easy enough to make, after all. It’s the product of fermenting grain into alcohol. It may have even been one of the first inventions after the Agricultural Revolution. 

Beer has been important in human culture for thousands of years. It’s no wonder some people proclaim that it has health benefits. While science can support some of these claims, beer also has drawbacks.

Nutrition Information

One can of beer (about 12 ounces) contains:

Beer is an excellent source of:

Depending on the color, some beers are also good sources of antioxidants. The darker the beer, the more  antioxidants it tends to have. Antioxidants fight free radicals in your body, reducing the risk of chronic conditions and certain forms of cancer.

Potential Health Benefits of Beer

As mentioned, beer is a rich source of vitamins and minerals, and some also contain antioxidants. Research supports a number of potential health benefits to drinking moderate amounts of beer:

Lower Risk of Heart Disease  

Several reviews have suggested that consuming one to two beers a day may help lower your risk of heart disease. In fact, beer may be as effective at improving general heart health as wine at comparable alcohol levels.

One study showed that one drink a day lowered the risk of all-cause mortality for women and up to two beers a day produced the same results for men. While one study  is not enough to identify the cause for this, research is promising.

Improved Blood Sugar Levels

Drinking light amounts of alcohol may help reduce the risk of developing diabetes and help people with diabetes control their blood sugar more effectively. One study showed that one to two alcoholic drinks a day could lower the risk of developing diabetes by as much as 50%.

This effect is strongest for low-sugar beers, such as light beers, so pay attention to the type of beer you drink.

Increased Bone Strength

Early research suggests that moderate amounts of beer may help strengthen bones for men and postmenopausal women. This may be because alcohol in general, in moderate amounts, can help your bones. But this benefit sharply drops when consumption passes two drinks a day, so moderation is key.

Continued

Potential Risks of Beer

The same aspects that make beer so potent can also cause health problems for people. Once beer consumption is heavy, over two drinks per day, it carries many potential risks.

Consider the following before adding significant amounts of beer to your diet:

Potential for Addiction

All alcohol carries the potential for dependency. Alcohol is an addictive substance, so people with a family history of addiction should be cautious with drinking beer or any other alcohol. Furthermore, heavy drinking eliminates most health benefits of beer, making addiction a double-edged sword. 

Reduced Life Expectancy

Heavy consumption significantly increases your risk of death from all causes. Studies show that heavy drinking reduces life expectancy by up to 28 years. 

Increased Risk of Liver Disease

Drinking more than two beers a day can increase chances of developing fatty liver disease, or cirrhosis.

Weight Gain

Many beers are high in calories, so drinking large amounts frequently can lead to substantial weight gain. “Beer belly” is a common term to describe someone who has extra weight around their waist. Studies have confirmed that drinking beer increases waist circumference.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on October 26, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica: “Mortality and life expectancy of people with alcohol use disorder in Denmark, Finland and Sweden.”

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Effects of beer, wine, and liquor intakes on bone mineral density in older men and women.”

American Addiction Centers: “Alcoholism Treatment: What Is Alcohol Addiction & How To Treat Alcoholism.”

Biomolecules: “Phenols and Melanoidins as Natural Antioxidants in Beer. Structure, Reactivity and Antioxidant Activity.”

Current Diabetes Reports: “Alcohol Consumption, Diabetes Risk, and Cardiovascular Disease Within Diabetes.”

Europe PMC: “Beer with reduced carbohydrates and alcohol content suitable for diabetics.”

European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Beer consumption and the “beer belly”: scientific basis or common belief?”

Diabetologia: “Alcohol drinking patterns and risk of diabetes: a cohort study of 70,551 men and women from the general Danish population.”

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon: “Beer.”

FoodData Central: “Beer.”

History: “Who Invented Beer?”

Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Disease: “Effects of moderate beer consumption on health and disease: A consensus document.”

World Journal of Hepatology: “Alcoholic liver disease.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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