While it has long been known that moderate alcohol consumption lowers the risk of cardiovascular mortality, a recent study shows that the effects of alcohol, especially beer, extend beyond the benefits to heart health.
As a staple of diets throughout all known human history, beer has received excessive negative publicity in the past century. From Prohibition through to the current moniker ‘beer gut’, beer has been portrayed as a debauched drink with negative implications for both society and health.
From a Darwinian point of view, it does not make sense that a drink that is harmful to both individuals and society should become the most broadly consumed beverage in history. Fortunately for the guilty imbibers, new scientific data shows that beer is not only good for our hearts, but for the rest of our bodies too.
Hundreds of studies conducted from the 1970s to modern day have shown time and again that moderate alcohol consumption decreases rates of cardiac mortality by about 25%. It was always assumed that this protective effect was balanced out by beer-induced weight gain and liver inflammation.
Instead, researchers from Spain have found just the opposite. These scientists were interested in the effects of beer on the development of Diabetes. They fed a group of males at high risk of developing Diabetes with either beer, gin, or non-alcoholic beer.
In line with the known effects of moderate consumption, these researchers found that alcohol was able to improve the balance of cholesterols in the body and reduce the factors that contribute to stiffening of the blood vessels, or atherosclerosis. Unexpectedly, the researchers also found that a group of chemicals in beer, known as poly-phenols, reduced whole-body inflammation.
Specifically, the poly-phenols in beer lower levels of immune signals that cause the immune system to attack different parts of the body.
Poly-phenols describe a class of chemicals that contain multiple carbon-ring structures. While these compounds are found in many natural products such as green tea and blueberries, nothing packs the one-two punch quite like alcoholic beer.
So the next time you’re at the bar or liquor store, don’t skimp and go with the O’Douls or the Smirnoff. Instead, choose a good, full-flavored beer like Wolaver’s Oatmeal Stout to enjoy a heart-healthy, life-prolonging night of enjoyment.
As far as the negative societal implications of drinking, scientists are still working on that. To see why alcohol is able to affect the brain, check out this piece on sex, drugs, and alcohol.