Numerous studies have shown health benefits from moderate alcohol intake (or maybe not), especially wine. For example, drinking wine with meals is linked with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, and wine consumption was shown to improve blood pressure levels. Yet what about other alcoholic beverages, such as beer?
Beer is a popular beverage, especially with men, that is also one of the oldest drinks invented by mankind. In fact, there is evidence of beer drinking in China 5,000 years ago. Lager is a beer that is brewed, fermented, and conditioned at low temperatures. Some consider lager the best beer for heart health, while others say dark beer is healthier due to higher levels of antioxidants.
Like wine, beer can have health benefits when consumed in moderation. Non-alcoholic beers have become wildly popular recently, but are these drinks also healthful? In a pilot study, researchers in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry report that compared to their pre-trial microbiome, men who drank either one alcoholic or non-alcoholic lager daily had a more diverse set of gut microbes, which can reduce the risk for some diseases.
Trillions of microorganisms line human gastrointestinal tracts, directly impacting their host’s well-being. Studies have shown that when more types of bacteria are present, people tend to have a lower chance of developing chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. And beer contains compounds, such as polyphenols, as well as microorganisms from its fermentation, that could impact the variety of microbes in the human gut.
A previously published “cross-over” study showed that when both men and women consumed non-alcoholic lager beer for 30 days, their gut microbiome diversity increased. Many of those same people were also in a second group that drank an alcoholic version of the beer, and it didn’t have the same effect. Few other clinical trials have tested this issue, so Ana Faria and colleagues wanted to see if they would find similar results with men in a different type of study — a parallel, randomized trial design — with two separate groups of participants.
In this double-blind study, 19 healthy men were randomly divided into two groups who drank 11 fluid ounces of either alcoholic or non-alcoholic lager with dinner for 4 weeks. The researchers found that the participants’ weight, body mass index, and serum markers for heart health and metabolism didn’t change during the study. But at the end of the 4-week period, both groups had greater bacterial diversity in their gut microbiome and higher levels of fecal alkaline phosphatase, indicating an improvement in intestinal health. The researchers suggest that these results could differ from those of the prior study because of the different designs of the trials, and because the participants were living in different communities.
However, based on this pilot study, the researchers say that consuming one bottle of beer, regardless of its alcohol content, may be beneficial to the gut microbiome and intestinal health of men. However, they add that because the safest level of alcohol consumption is none, non-alcoholic beer may be the more healthful choice.
Reference: “Impact of Beer and Nonalcoholic Beer Consumption on the Gut Microbiota: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Controlled Trial” by Cláudia Marques, Liliana Dinis, Inês Barreiros Mota, Juliana Morais, Shámila Ismael, José B. Pereira-Leal, Joana Cardoso, Pedro Ribeiro, Helena Beato, Mafalda Resende, Christophe Espírito Santo, Ana Paula Cortez, André Rosário, Diogo Pestana, Diana Teixeira, Ana Faria, and Conceição Calhau, 16 June 2022, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
The authors acknowledge funding from the Programa Operacional Competitividade e Internacionalização – COMPETE2020, Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT), the Center for Health and Technology and Services Research (CINTESIS) and the Comprehensive Health Research Center (CHRC).