There is nothing like real ale for bringing out pontification. The idea posited down at vulture’s lane was that beer was a form of food and that it features strongly in human evolution because of its storage and socially conducive characteristics. Could beer actually be good for you? I wasn’t surprised, when I went in search of scholarly resources, to find that a lot of research had been done on it.
Beer - Health and Nutrition (Bamforth, 2004) provided most of the answers: Beer provides calories and in out obesogenic environment that probably is not a good thing. Through historically it has been important source of energy. The boiling and hopping make it safer than drinking unpurified water.This may explain why in Great Britain in the 17th century people scarcely drank water. It provides vitamins (good source of vitamin B6, B12 and Folate) and minerals (Potassium, Magnesium and selenium)(Bamforth, 2004).
If you study the plethora (by definition: a very large amount or number: an amount that is much greater than what is necessary) of nutritional articles on the internet you will notice 2 recurring themes:
- A compound contained in the food or drink that has almost magical health giving properties. I call it the “cult of the superfood”. What could sound more esoteric that Xanthoumol. Found in hops therefore in beer - quantity depending on how it was made.The benefits of Xanthoumol are that it inhibits bone re-absorption – good news for women over 50 when bone density decreases - and it reduces Atherosclerosis (cardio vascular disease)
- Yes (insert food or drink of your choice) is good for you – in moderation. The evidence is that beer is no exception to this golden rule. In moderate amounts it lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s and is better than water for flushing kidney stones.
Alcohol is good for mind and spirit. It relaxes and sedates (Bamforth, 2004). Alcohol has been classed as carcinogenic by the WHO but the link is nowhere near as strong as for smoking (Stuttaford, 1997). In fact the phytoestrogens in beer have been shown to counter breast and prostate cancer (Bamforth, 2004). The problem is that alcohol affects judgement and while enjoying a fine ale and convivial company, discussing the health giving properties of beer your idea of what is moderate may become extremely lenient.
Bamforth, C. W. (2004). Beer Health and Nutrition. Oxford: Blackwell.
Stuttaford, T. (1997). To Your good Health! The wise drinkers guide. London: Faber and Faber.