Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Miraculous Cure-All Superfood: Beer

There's always a lot of talk of this or that new berry or nut or leafy green that's the new superfood that's going to cure all your ails and add years onto your life. Most of these turn out to be scams backed up by pseudo-science. But there's one superfood that you've never heard touted by Dr. Oz or seen on a late-night infomercial. Even though this superfood has been shown in hundreds of clinical medical studies to reduce the risk of heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, cancer, dementia, and be better for your bones than drinking milk.

So what is this miracle cure-all superfood? Why it's BEER, of course! It's true--drinking beer (and also other alcoholic beverages) is one of single healthiest thing you can do. And in most cases you may be increasing your risk of dying by abstaining from alcohol. Yes, you read that right. You'll probably die sooner if you don't drink.

Alcohol is a drug. Heroin is a drug. They are the same. Apparently
But, beer can't really be good for you if it also tastes great and makes you feel good, right? Our protestant/puritanical beliefs are so deeply rooted in our culture we hardly realize they're there and can hardly shake them. It was Martin Luther that made you believe that if something tastes good, feels good, or makes you happy, it must be bad for you (and your eternal soul). It doesn't help that the neo-prohibitionists have been hammering home the idea that alcohol is evil since we were kids. Remember when you learned that alcohol is a drug just like heroin in DARE? It's hard for us to accept that a mind-altering substance that you enjoy consuming can also be amazingly good for your physical and mental health. But guess what--Martin Luther was dead wrong.


Teetotalers Die First


Over the last 10-15 years, the evidence has mounted into a veritable mountain showing that alcoholic drinks, and beer in particular, have amazing health benefits. You probably think I'm going to feed you a bunch of homeopathic bullshit articles that most people use to justify their "superfoods."

I've got one better for you though. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) is our government's number one anti-alcohol agency. It's difficult to find anything positive about alcohol on their website if you do a cursory search. However, I found this gem of a website buried on their site that details all of the health benefits of moderate drinking. And it's a very long list (which I summarize below).

If you want to sum it all up in one sentence, take this quote from the NIAAA site: "A meta-analysis on all cause-mortality using approximately 50 studies demonstrated an inverse association between light to moderate drinking and total mortality under all scenarios." Here's that in plain English: basically every quality medical study conducted has shown that if you drink alcohol you will most likely outlive someone who doesn't drink. It can't be much simpler than that.

The health benefits of alcohol are nearly always followed up with "in moderation only." But saying "in moderation only" ignores the fact that in a study of almost 2000 adults over 20 years showed that non-drinkers had a higher mortality rate than heavy drinkers. It has been scientifically shown that it is more dangerous to be a teetotaler than an alcoholic. But, as you might have guessed, moderate drinkers outlived both groups by a wide margin.

The Ridiculously Amazing Health Benefits of Beer


This is what your new health regimen
looks like. Winning!
I've attempted to compile a comprehensive list of the health benefits of drinking beer moderately on a daily basis. Drinking beer can improve nearly every health outcome you can think of. This is no joke--drinking about 2-4 beers every day is probably the single healthiest thing you can do in your life.

Aside from the obvious things we all know to be dangerous with alcohol (drinking & driving or drinking excessively while pregnant), if you're drinking in moderation the one and only negative thing I've found anywhere in all my research is in regards to breast cancer. Steady moderate drinking in women with a family history of breast cancer may have an increased risk of breast cancer with increased drinking. Otherwise, the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of alcohol as the greatest superfood / cure-all medication ever discovered.

Unless otherwise noted, the source for all of these health benefits can be found in the NIAAA page cited earlier. Also, unless otherwise noted, these health benefits count for both women and men. So here we go...

The Heart


Heart Attacks - Moderate alcohol consumption (3-4 drinks/day) reduces your chance of having a heart attack by up to 50% over non-drinkers.

Stroke - Moderate alcohol consumption (2-4 drinks/day) reduces the risk of stroke in middle-aged & elderly populations.

Cholesterol - Increasing alcohol consumption (up to 4 drinks/day) has been shown to increase HDL cholesterol (the good kind of cholesterol) by up to 18% (source).

Hypertension - There is no conclusive evidence whether moderate alcohol intake increases, decreases, or does not affect blood pressure in general. There is some evidence that caucasian women may have lowered blood pressure with moderate alcohol consumption (1 drink/day). However, there is some evidence that individuals with pre-existing high blood pressure may benefit from lowered alcohol consumption (source).

The "Beer Belly"


Obesity - There is no clinical evidence that moderate alcohol consumption leads to weight gain (up to 2 drinks/day). Adding 2 drinks a day to your diet will not give you a beer belly.

Diabetes - Moderate alcohol consumption (2 drinks/day) leads to a 60% reduction in the risk of developing diabetes. 

The Brain


Alzheimer's Disease - Moderate drinking (1-3 drinks/day) was found to have no increased risk of Alzheimer's in some studies and a decrease in risk of developing Alzheimers in other studies.

Studies also found that compounds in hops may protect brain cells from developing Alzheimer Parkinson diseases (source)

Dementia - Studies found that moderate alcohol consumption (1-3 drinks/day) may reduce risk for vascular dementia.

Cognitive Function in Aging - Moderate alcohol intake (1-4 drinks/day) was found to be associated with improved cognitive performance.

The Liver


Liver Disease (Cirrhosis) - contrary to popular believe moderate drinking (up to 5 drinks/day) does not show a significant increase in your chance of developing liver disease. A moderate intake of alcohol does not by its very nature damage your liver. 

Indeed, there is actually evidence that hops in beer may protective of your liver (source).

Cancer


All Cancer - Moderate alcohol consumption (1-2 drinks/day) significantly reduces the risk of dying of any type of cancer compared to abstainers.

Breast Cancer - The effect of alcohol on the risk for breast cancer remains inconclusive in general. However, among women with a family history of breast cancer, studies indicate that increasing alcohol consumption can lead to an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

Colorectal Cancer - No increase in colorectal cancers have been identified with moderate alcohol consumption (up to 2 drinks/day)

Oral/Upper Digestive Tract Cancers - A slight increase in risks of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, and esophagus has been detected with heavy drinking, but no studies have been done on the effect of moderate drinking .

Bones & Joints


Rheumatoid Arthritis - moderate alcohol consumption (1 drink/day) lowered the risk of developing RA in women by 22%-31% (source)

Bone Density - Older women who drank moderately (1-2 drinks/day) had better bone regeneration than non drinkers (source).

Furthermore, beer (and not wine or liquor) is one of the only foods that you can get a significant amount of dietary silicon from--which is even more important for increasing bone density and preventing osteoporosis than calcium (source).

Vitamins & Minerals


In addition to all of these proven health benefits, beer is filled with vitamins and minerals. This is especially true for craft beer, and in particular unpasteurized, unfiltered beer with yeast still in suspension (homebrew!). This isn't the case with liquor, and is only partly true for wine. Here's a list of essentially vitamins and minerals from A to Z that unfiltered/unpasteurized beer typically contains:

Amino acids
Calcium
Iodine
Magnesium
Phosphorus
Potassium
Probiotics
Selenium
Silicone
Vitamin B2
Vitamin B3
Vitamin B6
Vitamin B9
Vitamin B12
Zinc

So feel guilty no more, and don't suffer those people who wish to convince you that drinking is unhealthy. Instead, ignore them and smile while you're thinking, "I'm going to out-last you!"

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