It’s National Beer Day, which seems like as good a reason as any to savour a pint of the amber nectar (though not Fosters, obviously –these days the selection on offer is much better than that). And here’s another: that same glass of beer could actually help you live longer. Last year, a study of 80,000 adults conducted by the Pennsylvania State University found a pint or two a day could help reduce the risk of having a stroke or developing cardiovascular disease. The research, conducted among Chinese adults, discovered that a moderate daily alcohol intake (most visible with beer) helps slow the decline of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol, better than not drinking at all.
In fact, there are more surprising health perks hiding in your pint glass than you may think (though, of course, you should always drink in moderation) …
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 studysurveyed 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.
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