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Health Benefits of Moderate Beer Consumption



In terms of raw health benefits for moderate beer drinkers who drink 1 or 2, 12 oz cans a day, what is the healthiest beer to drink? My understanding is that it would be the one that has the most B vitamins in it and that "Lite Beer" would not have as many as compared to darker beer? I would appreciate it if you would please help me understand this better. Thank you.


Thanks for your question. There has been more research to support the health benefits of moderate beer consumption. However, most studies do not distinguish between light beers vs. lager, ales, etc. A recent study published in the Jan 9, 2003 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine found that imbibers of wine, beer or other spirits had a 32-37% reduction in coronary heart disease when compared to non-drinkers. Those who drank more frequently (3-4 or 5-7 times/week) had the most risk reduction. Although beer contains a small amount of B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, and vitamin B 6), the reason beer may be heart healthy is not due to its vitamin content, but the alcohol itself. Alcohol raises HDL (good cholesterol) and may also impact insulin sensitivity (meaning the body can handle sugar better). In addition, alcohol affects platelet function and clotting factors, making the blood less likely to clot. In addition, a recent University of England study has revealed that beer also contains antioxidants, which may help protect cells from free radical damage. Free radicals are produced in the body during regular metabolism or when the body is exposed to pollutants such as smoke. These unstable chemicals damage DNA and have been linked with the development of heart disease and cancer. Previously, most research only supported red wine consumption in terms of antioxidant power. The antioxidants in beer may also contribute to its health benefits. In terms of health, light beer would contain less carbohydrate and calories, so it may be a bit `healthier` than heavier beers. And as always with alcohol, moderation is key. One or two drinks/day is recommended, more is detrimental to good health. 

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Response by:

Lisa Cicciarello Andrews, MEd, RD, LD Lisa Cicciarello Andrews, MEd, RD, LD
Adjunct Faculty
University of Cincinnati