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“Liquid Bread” or beer, as it is more commonly known, is second only to water and tea in terms of global consumption. Since at least 5,300 BC (but who’s counting?), revellers everywhere have been improving their short-term mood while relaxing and making decisions that they may or may not regret the next day. But, in addition to the buzz of chugging down a beer there are an array of health benefits to enjoy as well, just as long as you don’t over consume. With beer likely to stay part of many people’s lifestyles for the foreseeable future, it’s good to know that a new scientific review is doubling down on the positives of a pint, adding more depth to the belief that beer can be good for gut microbiota. With all this in mind, M&F decided to drink in some of the details.
In considering the case for drinking a case of beer, it is important to note that alcohol itself creates an imbalance in gut bacteria, decreasing important metabolites like short-chain fatty acids, while also increasing oxidative stress. Alcohol is a common cause of liver disease and be a trigger for inflammation. Still, researchers at the Department of Microecology in China wanted to investigate and review whether beer consumed within safe limits could be welcomed rather than barred. The results? Data suggests that men who drank a single beer each day had a more robust set of gut microbes than those who abstained, and this merrily applied to both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
Gut microbes, also known as gut microbiota, or flora, lie within your digestive system and are made up of bacteria, fungi, and other organisms. There are hundreds of different types of these organisms and they contribute to the smooth running of your metabolism, immune system, brain health and much more. For this reason, probiotics containing beneficial bacteria are so desired in today’s society that they are often sold in supplement form. But what if they were under your nose all along?
“Low or non-alcoholic beers are good candidates for functional foods,” stated the review, explaining that beer is brewed from ingredients such as hops and yeast, and undergoes fermentation. Like yogurt, beer is heavy on nutrients, includes essential amino acids, and it also contains polyphenols and flavonoids in addition to calcium, zinc, magnesium, and iron. Polyphenols are naturally occurring compounds and are thought to positively influence gut microbiota. “When beer is consumed in moderation, the phenols and other nutrients it contains are fermented and broken down by the microbial community that resides in the outer mucosal layer of the gut,” stated the review.”
That’s not all. The bacteria brewed from beer may also prevent heart disease and improve blood flow. “In healthy non-smokers, beer acutely improves parameters of arterial function and structure,” continued the paper. But, while many of us are always cheering on a good reason to down some of our favorite amber nectar, too much of a good thing is known to cause depression, weight gain, and a myriad of other ailments. So, it is important to remember that the advice is to enjoy no more than one drink per day if containing alcohol, but, with an influx of low and no alcohol “health beers” catching on with gym goers and those who would just like a clearer head in the morning, it’s great to know that the odd pint won’t derail your progress. Many beer makers are already tweaking their formulas to deliver less alcohol or sugar, without being too much of a buzz-kill. “Whether beer can be used in the future as a micro-ecological regulator or even as an alternative therapy for chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and obesity is a question that deserves further research,” concluded the review. While there is still much to learn about one of the world’s oldest beverages, we are undoubtedly in a brave new era for beer. An era that bartenders and scientists alike can raise a glass to.