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Moderate Beer Consumption May Have Health Benefits

According to the World Health Organization Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health, beer ranks as one of the most consumed alcoholic beverages in the world. Here in the U.S., it’s the most popular alcoholic beverage – contributing up to 55.3% of the alcohol consumed.

Researchers in Spain and Brazil investigated the effects of moderate and regular daily intake of beer with meals in overweight (BMI 28-29.9) or obese (BMI 30-35) individuals without cardiovascular risk factors – such as abnormal vascular lab values, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension – in which the focus was on the effects related to changes in weight, lipoproteins, and vascular endothelial function.

Lipoproteins are soluble proteins that combine with and transport fat or other lipids in the blood plasma – while vascular endothelial function refers to cells that line the entire circulatory system – heart to the smallest capillaries. The endothelium, “is a cell layer lining the blood luminal surface of vessels,” that represents a protective barrier to prevent vessel damage.
The 12-week prospective study – Moderate Beer Intake and Cardiovascular Health in Overweight Individuals – appearing in the September issue of the online journal Nutrients, “provide evidence that moderate intake of beer (traditional and alcohol-free) does not exert vascular detrimental effects nor increases body weight in obese healthy individuals. In contrast, moderate intake of beer increases the anti-oxidative properties of HDL (good cholesterol) and facilitates cholesterol efflux, which may prevent lipid deposition in the vessel wall.”

Prior research has documented that low-to-moderate drinkers have a reduced risk of developing coronary heart disease and a lower mortality in comparison to high-risk heavy drinkers and those that abstain.

However, the jury is still out and changing its verdict as we speak, especially as it applies to the type and pattern of alcohol consumption. The INTERHEART study, which examined the association between alcohol consumption and the long and short-term risk of myocardial infarction world-wide, “highlights the importance of the type of alcohol consumed and the pattern of alcohol use, as modifiers of the relationship between alcohol and myocardial infarction.”

In many studies, abstainers come out on top. It appears that when you pit alcohol consumption versus the mortality risk in certain studies, the moderate alcohol consumption benefits can be skewed, as a result of the study design, its characteristics, and other confounding factors.

In the current “open, randomized, two-arm longitudinal, cross-over trial,” the researchers employed a four-week intervention period, where the participants – healthy adult men and women between 40-60 years of age, non-smokers, regular but moderate beer consumers – experienced two 4-week treatment periods separated by a 4-week wash-out period – with a 4-week “run-in period.

The two intervention segments included: traditional beer in phase one and alcohol-free beer in the second phase, and vice versa in the next two phases. The male and female subjects were asked to consume two cans (660 milliliters) and one can (330 ml) respectively of traditional beer or alcohol-free beer daily.

During the test phases, all subjects were asked to maintain their current activity level and dietary habits – while omitting other alcohol or alcohol-free beverages.

Pre- and post-study testing included fasting laboratory blood values, height, weight (for body mass index), waist circumference, blood pressure, among others.

Surprisingly, “our results provide consistent evidence that regular consumption of alcohol-free beer or traditional beer in moderate quantities (two cans a day for men and one can a day for women) over two periods of four weeks did not modify or only induced minimal changes within clinical normality range in plasma biomarkers of liver and kidney function, whereas significantly promoted atheroprotective properties of HDL, such as prevention of LDL (bad cholesterol) oxidation and induction of cholesterol efflux from macrophages – considered a first step in the reverse cholesterol transport,” noted the investigators.

Basically, just what the doctor ordered. But, let me paraphrase what the researchers said. Excessive consumption of alcohol is, “unquestionable a health hazard.” And, many study findings are inconclusive.

To quote Buddha, “be moderate in all things.”

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