News wise — Like wine, beer can have health benefits when consumed in moderation. And of course, we all know how important gut health is to our longevity. There’s an ongoing debate about whether alcohol is good or bad for your gut. Added to this, non-alcoholic beers have become wildly popular of late, but are these drinks also healthy?
In a pilot study involving male participants, researchers in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, reported 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.
The pilot study showed that drinking lager beer could improve gut health and by association may help mitigate certain diseases.
But first, let’s talk about beer
Before we get onto the research, let’s talk about beer.
According to Time, “A beer can qualify as either a lager or an ale, depending on the fermenting process. Ales are created through top fermentation, a process in which yeast ferments at warmer temperatures and settles at the top of the beer. The yeast used to make lager tends to settle at the bottom of the beer, and the fermenting process is longer and takes place under cooler temperatures. The yeast in ales has a higher tolerance for alcohol than the yeast used in lagers.”
“Beers start out as an ale or a lager, and their specific styles and flavors continue to evolve from there. Under the broad ale category, there are numerous types of beer, including pale ales, Indian pale ales (IPA), porters, stouts, and wheat and Belgian styles. Lagers encompass a range of styles, including the pale Pilsners and German Helles and the darker American lagers.” – Time
How many calories are in a beer?
According to the NHS, the UK reports that an average pint of 5% beer contains approximately 239 calories. However, we think this estimate seems a little high. The USDA shows an average of 208 calories/pint, and this tool estimates 182 calories per 4% pint. If the beer doesn’t state calorie quantity, it’s safe to guess that you’re drinking approximately 160-185 calories per pint of beer.”
“Not all beers are created equal. Bigger pours and higher ABV are usually signals of higher calorie content. Every beer is made with a different recipe, meaning the calories are going to vary from pint to pint.”
Beer, your gut health and longevity
Now that we have gotten the beer types and calorie stuff out of the way, let’s talk about beer and your gut health.
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.
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.
Alcoholic vs Non-Alcoholic beer
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.
What the researchers discovered about beer and your gut
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. This included 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.
But 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 healthy choice.