With or without alcohol, is beer the gut’s new best friend?
A beer a day keeps the doctor away... Beer lovers will raise their glasses to this new take on the old saying, the inspiration for which comes from a Portuguese study that praises the beneficial effects of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beer for the gut microbiota and health in general.
About this article
Excessive alcohol use is responsible for three million deaths each year and is a causal factor in more than 200 diseases.1 On the other hand, when consumed (sidenote: Moderation Adults of legal drinking age can choose not to drink or to drink in moderation by limiting intake to 2 drinks or less in a day for men and 1 drink or less in a day for women, when alcohol is consumed. Drinking less is better for health than drinking more. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/moderate-binge-drinking ) , beer is thought to have beneficial effects on health, particularly in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. These beneficial effects have long been known for both beer and wine, but it is not yet clear whether they are due to moderate consumption or to the compounds contained in these beverages, such as the (sidenote: Polyphenol An organic molecule present in plant matter. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319728 ) found in large quantities in beer.
Beneficial effect... with or without alcohol?
To shed some light on the matter, a team of Portuguese researchers2 carried out a study comparing the effects of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beer on the gut microbiota and on markers of cardiometabolic health (weight, fat mass, cholesterol levels, insulin resistance, etc.).
181 liters This is the annual beer consumption per capita in the Czech Republic.
1st This makes this small European country the world’s largest consumer of beer, far ahead of second place Austria, which consumes a “mere” 97 liters per head.
Without changing their diet, 10 men drank 33 cl of lager (alcohol content 5.2%) each day with their dinner for four weeks, while another 9 men consumed a non-alcoholic beer.
A more diverse gut microbiota
Good (and surprising) news for beer lovers: no weight gain and no increase in liver enzymes were noted. There were also no major changes in cardiometabolic health markers. Stool analyzes revealed greater microbial diversity in the gut microbiota (a sign of good health), but also a tendency towards greater fecal alkaline phosphatase activity – a marker of the gut barrier function – regardless of the type of beer consumed. Therefore, the compounds present in beer seem to outweigh the harmful effects of alcohol on the gut flora.
The gut microbiota
Benefits linked to polyphenols
The researchers attribute these benefits to polyphenols and isoxanthohumol, an antioxidant substance abundant in beer which reduces the risk of chronic disease. These compounds are found in greater quantities in unfiltered beers, which may have an even greater impact on the health of our gut flora, according to the researchers.
Further work is needed to confirm these results. In the meantime, drink in moderation.