Text and Photo by Henrylito D. Tacio
“24 hours in a day, 24 beers in a case. Coincidence? I think not,” humorist Henry L. Mencken once wrote. “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy,” so said American statesman Benjamin Franklin.
After all, although not referring to beer at all, British playwright George Bernard Shaw wrote: “When we drink, we get drunk. When we get drunk, we fall asleep. When we fall asleep, we commit no sin. When we commit no sin, we go to heaven. So, let’s all get drunk and go to heaven!”
“In heaven there is no beer, that’s why we drink it here,” so goes the line of a song that was originally composed as a movie score for the film 1956’s “Die Fischerin vom Bodensee.” “When we’re gone from here, all our friends will be drinking all our beer!”
Beer is the world’s oldest and most widely consumed alcoholic beverage and the third most popular drink overall (after water and tea). It is produced by the brewing and fermentation of starches, mainly derived from cereal grains – the most common of which is malted barley, although wheat, corn, and rice are also widely used.
Nutritionists claim beer contains vitamins B and B2 (as well as B6, which is needed to make hemoglobin, the red coloring in the blood) and essential minerals like calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. Dark beer is better for you than light beer. A recent study published in the “Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture” has found that dark beer has higher iron content compared to lighter beers. Dark beer also contains more flavanoids which are natural oxidants that help to protect the body from disease.
The beneficial effects of drinking alcohol have been guessed at from the earliest days of humankind. Beer was first used as a homeopathic remedy back in the good old days of the Egyptian Pharaohs. Since the beginning of the 20th century, doctors and researchers have sought scientific evidence to understand the association between alcohol and human health.
According to a study published in 1999’s New England Journal of Medicine, those who drank one beer a week compared to those who drank one beer a day experienced no variance in reducing stroke risks. It is said that light to moderate drinkers will decrease their chances of suffering a stroke by 20 percent.
In the United States, a researcher at the Texas Southwestern Medical Center reported that those who consume moderate amounts of beer (one to two a day at the most) have a 30-40 percent lower rate of coronary heart disease compared to those who don’t drink.
More than 100 studies also show that moderate drinking trims the risk of heart attacks and dying from cardiovascular disease by 25 to 40 percent, reports the Harvard School of Public Health. A beer or two a day can help raise levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol that helps keep arteries from getting clogged.
Unknowingly, beer contains high levels of silicon, which is linked to bone health. In a 2009 study at Tufts University and other centers, older men and women who swigged one or two drinks daily had a higher bone density, with the greatest benefits found in those who favored beer or wine. However, downing more than two drinks was linked to an increased risk for fractures.
A beer a day may help keep Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia at bay, researchers say. A 2005 study tracking the health of 11,000 older women showed that moderate drinkers (those who consumed about one drink a day) lowered their risk of mental decline by as much as 20 percent, compared to non-drinkers. In addition, older women who downed a drink a day scored as about 18 months “younger,” on average, on tests of mental skills than the non-drinkers.
Drinking beer also reduced the risk for diabetes. A 2011 Harvard study of about 38,000 middle-aged men found that when those who only drank occasionally raised their alcohol intake to one to two beers or other drinks daily, their risk of developing type 2 diabetes dropped by 25 percent. The researchers found no benefit to quaffing more than two drinks. The researchers found that alcohol increases insulin sensitivity, thus helping protect against diabetes.
In 1999, a Finnish-U.S. study of beer-drinking middle-aged men was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. The report stated that an increase in beer consumption may reduce the risk of developing kidney stones. Results showed that there was a 40 percent lower risk of kidney stones in beer drinkers, but the researchers were stumped as to whether the results were due to water, alcohol, or hops.
Of course, there are also bad sides to drinking beer. For one, there’s such a thing as “beer belly.” In a German study, Gerard Klose said, “dangers begin to emerge in men measuring more than 94 centimeters around the middle, and become ‘really risky’ at a girth of 102 centimeters.”
Here’s the hitch: “Too much fat,” Klose said, “makes diabetes, certain forms of cancer and heart disease a distinct possibility.”
It’s no secret that the high level of fat accumulated on the body is unhealthy and can cause serious illness over time. An article in the London Times reports that fat that collects around the internal organs to form the typically male beer belly will also find its way into the bloodstream and in turn, raise your cholesterol levels. This leads to heart and vascular disease and strokes.
Again, as in all things, moderation is the key here. A 12-ounce of beer (one bottle) is equal to one drink. One drink per day for women, two for men is considered a safe and beneficial amount. Excessive drinking will produce negative health effects. “Beer,” commented Thomas Jefferson, “if drunk in moderation, softens the temper, cheers the spirit, and promotes health.”
Drinking beer and other alcoholic beverages over moderation can lead to liver damage, dangers of drunk driving, and damage to fetuses of pregnant women who are drinking – just to name a few.
By the way, beer is not only for drinking but for cooking as well. It is incomparable as a cooking tool in Western Europe. Due to the fact that alcohol has a much lower boiling temperature than water, it evaporates quickly while cooking your recipe and thereby only leaves the characteristic taste of the beer.
Some ways to use beer in cooking are as follows: marinades for beef (both tenderizes and adds flavor), as a substitute for water in different soups and stocks, used in batters for fried foods, added to gravies to spice up the taste, and as a cooking base/liquid for steaming foods like sausages, shellfish, and clams.
“Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer,” wrote Dave Barry, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American author, and columnist. “Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.”