Scientific studies over the years have shown that regular moderate consumption of beer may have health benefits for adults. Although beer consumption has beneficial effects, consumption must be moderate and complement other healthy lifestyle habits. On the other hand, heavy consumption is not beneficial and only has adverse effects. Moderate consumption is defined as no more than two drinks for men and one drink for women per day. This information was provided by Prof. Arne Astrup (MD, DMSc) from the University of Copenhagen at an event organised by the Federation of the Brewing and Soft Drinks Industry.
The health benefits follow a J curve: those who consume beer or other alcoholic beverages in moderate quantities have a lower risk of several major common diseases than abstainers and heavy consumers. Moderate consumption has been linked to lower mortality, as regular and moderate beer consumption may lower the risk for cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes, and may prevent dementia.
“It’s often thought that alcoholic beverages increase the risk for type 2 diabetes, but the truth is that one or two alcoholic drinks per day may in fact reduce this risk. Moderate beer consumption may also have a positive effect on life expectancy in general, as those who consume a moderate amount of beer have lower mortality from cardiovascular diseases than abstainers,” says Professor Astrup, Head of the Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports at the University of Copenhagen.
Beer is a versatile beverage with a low alcohol content that is brewed from natural ingredients: water, malts, hops and yeast. Only part of the health benefits of beer are due to alcohol.
“Beer also has positive health benefits particularly thanks to its ingredients and brewing process. Beer is a source of B vitamins, minerals, polyphenols and fibre,” says Astrup.
Although some of the health benefits of beer are due to alcohol, both non-alcoholic and low-alcohol (ABV <2.8%) beers also provide plenty of health benefits. Non-alcoholic and low-alcohol beers are particularly suitable for hydrating after sports. Non-alcoholic beer may also have a favourable effect on quality of sleep, stress reduction and cardiovascular diseases, but more research is still required.
Moderate beer consumption is not responsible for the beer belly
It’s often thought that alcoholic beverages – and beer in particular – are fattening. Although it is true that beer and other alcoholic beverages contain calories, moderate alcohol consumption as part of a healthy lifestyle has not been linked to weight gain. Beer is a mild alcoholic beverage that is low in calories, and non-alcoholic alternatives are available.
“There is no scientific evidence that moderate beer consumption would lead to a so-called beer belly. Studies show that eating and general lifestyle habits, such as lack of exercise, play a major role in weight gain among beer drinkers, and not beer in itself. A balanced and varied diet and an active lifestyle will keep you in shape. Smoking, on the other hand, together with lack of exercise, are factors strongly linked to the beer belly,” says Astrup.
Weight gain has primarily been linked to the consumption of large quantities of beer and other alcoholic beverages. If you consume more calories than you burn, your weight will rise – whether these calories come from fat, alcohol or carbohydrates.
Alcohol is not suitable for everyone or for every situation. For persons who do not wish to consume alcohol, non-alcoholic beer is a good alternative. Alcohol is for adults and is not suitable for those who are underage. Also, alcohol should be avoided by those who are in traffic or pregnant, for instance, and before sports. All alcoholic beverages may increase the risk of certain kinds of cancer.
University of Copenhagen
Professor Arne Astrup (MD, DMSc), tel. +45 2143 3302
Federation of the Brewing and Soft Drinks Industry
Managing Director Elina Ussa, tel. +358 (0)45 269 7711
Communications Manager Outi Heikkinen, tel. +358 (0)50 370 8677
The Federation of the Brewing and Soft Drinks Industry promotes the interests of producers of beer, cider, long drinks, soft drinks and mineral waters in Finland. Its members are Captol Invest Oy, Oy Hartwall Ab, Olvi Oyj, Red Bull Finland Oy, Saimaan Juomatehdas, and Oy Sinebrychoff Ab. The Federation of the Brewing and Soft Drinks Industry operates in connection with the Finnish Food and Drink Industries Federation and represents Finland’s fourth largest industry in the food and drink branch in terms of the value of production.