What health benefits are hiding in your pint glass?
Could beer cure cancer? Scientists at the University of Idaho think so.
This week, at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, researchers will present findings that suggest a key ingredient in beer could be used in the fight against cancer and inflammatory diseases.
Acids called humulones and lupulones, which are found in hops, possess the ability to halt bacterial growth and disease, and scientists hope to find a way to extract these compounds or synthesise them in a lab in order to develop active agents for cancer-treating pharmaceuticals.
But what other little known health benefits are hiding in your pint glass?
1. Beer lowers the risk of kidney stones
Last year, a study suggested that the risk of developing kidney stones decreases with increasing beer consumption.
Finnish researchers, led by Dr. Tero Hirvonen of the National Public Health Institute of Helsinki, used their detailed study of 27,000 middle-aged men to conclude that “each bottle of beer consumed per day was estimated to reduce risk by 40 per cent”.
The study authors noted that both the water and alcohol found in beer are shown to increase urine flow and dilute urine, thereby reducing the risk of stones forming.
Alcohol may also “increase the excretion of calcium,” the prime constituent of kidney stones, said Hirvonen.
2. Beer protects you from heart attacks
A research team at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania found that dark ales and stouts can reduce the incidence of heart attacks.
Atherosclerosis – when artery walls become furred-up with cholesterol and other fatty substances – is known to cause heart problems, but Dr Joe Vinson, a professor of chemistry and lead author on a 2000 study, revealed that beer can cut the risk of this disease by as much as half.
However, the researchers were keen to add that moderation was key.
3. Beer reduces the risk of strokes
Studies by both Harvard Medical School and the American Stroke Association have shown that people who drink moderate amounts of beer can cut their risk of strokes by up to a 50pc, compared to non-drinkers.
Ischaemic strokes are the most common type of stroke.
They occur when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. However, when you drink beer, your arteries become flexible and blood flow improves significantly.
As a result, no blood clots form, and your risk of having a stroke drops exponentially.
4. Beer strengthens your bones
Beer is known to contain high levels of silicon, an element that promotes bone growth.
But you have to get the balance right. Academics at Tufts University in Massachusetts found that whilst one or two glasses of beer a day could significantly reduce your risk of fracturing bones, more than that would actually raise the risk of breakages.
So be careful when you visit the pub: if you drink too much, your bones will be weakened and those drunken nightime tumbles could result in nasty fractures. Drink the right amount, however, and you’ll walk home with your bones and dignity in tact.
5. Beer decreases the chance of diabetes
In 2011, Harvard researchers found that middle-aged men who drink one or two glasses of beer each day appear to reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 25pc.
Dr Michel Joosten, a visiting professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, studied 38,000 middle-aged men, and concluded that the alcohol content in beer increases insulin sensitivity, which helps prevent diabetes.
Additionally, beer is a good source of soluble fibre – a dietary material that helps to control blood sugar and plays an important role in the diet of people suffering from diabetes.
So, whether you’ve got diabetes or not, a glass of beer is just what the doctor ordered.
6. Beer reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s
Studies dating back to 1977 have suggested that beer drinkers can be up to 23pc less likely to develop cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.
However, despite the statistics speaking for themselves – one study surveyed over 365,000 people – it is unknown why moderate drinking can have a beneficial effect. One theory suggests that the well-known cardiovascular benefits of moderate alcohol consumption, such as raising good cholesterol, also can improve blood flow in the brain and thus brain metabolism.
The silicon content of beer could also be responsible. Silicon is thought to protect the brain from the harmful effects of aluminum in the body – one of the possible causes of Alzheimer’s.
7. Beer can cure insomnia
Beer is a natural nightcap. Ales, stouts and lagers have been found to stimulate the production of dopamine, a compound that may be prescribed to insomnia sufferers by a doctor, in the brain.
According to research undertaken at the Indiana University School of Medicine, simply tasting beer increases the amount of dopamine in the brain – and thus make drinkers feel calmer and more relaxed.
However, the academics clarified that these effects are achieved after only a taste, and so a paltry 15 millilitre serving is all you need – the equivalent of one tablespoon of beer.
8. Beer can stop cataracts
Too much and your vision will get blurry, but consume just the right amount of beer and your eyes will benefit.
Researchers at the University of Western Ontario found that the antioxidants found in beer, particularly ales and stouts, protected against mitochondrial damage.
Cataracts are formed when the mitochondria – parts of a cell responsible for converting glucose into the energy – of the eye’s outer lens are damaged.
Antioxidants protect the mitochondria against this damage, and therefore the study authors recommend one drink a day to keep the eye doctor away.Follow us on Twitter at @Riverinenews
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