[Jan. 22, 2024: JJ Shavit, The Brighter Side of News]
Men who drank either one alcoholic or non-alcoholic lager daily had a more diverse set of gut microbes. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)
Similar to wine, beer can offer health perks when enjoyed sparingly. The recent surge in the popularity of non-alcoholic beers poses a question: do they also offer health advantages?
A preliminary study published in the ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reveals that men who consumed either an alcoholic or non-alcoholic lager daily exhibited an enriched diversity in their gut microbes compared to before the trial, which is associated with a reduced risk of certain diseases.
The human gastrointestinal tract is inhabited by trillions of microorganisms that play a crucial role in the overall health of the host. Research indicates that a greater variety of bacterial presence typically correlates with a decreased risk of developing chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes.
Furthermore, beer, due to its polyphenols and fermentation-derived microorganisms, may influence the microbial diversity within the human gut.
A past "cross-over" study revealed that consuming non-alcoholic lager beer for a duration of 30 days led to an enhancement in gut microbiome diversity among both men and women. Notably, numerous participants from this study were also involved in a secondary group that imbibed the alcoholic variant of the beer, which did not yield the same outcomes.
In light of limited clinical trials addressing this topic, Ana Faria and her team sought to explore whether comparable results would emerge among men in a distinct study format — a parallel, randomized trial design — involving two independent participant groups.
In this controlled experiment involving double-blinding, 19 robust males were arbitrarily segregated into two categories, each consuming 11 fluid ounces of alcoholic or non-alcoholic lager respectively with their evening meal over a span of 4 weeks.
World consumption of beer by country. (CREDIT: Expensivity)
Upon evaluating the data, the researchers discerned no alterations in the participants’ weight, body mass index, and serum indicators pertinent to cardiovascular and metabolic health throughout the study's duration. However, concluding the 4-week interval, an enhancement in intestinal health was signified in both groups by an elevated bacterial diversity in the gut microbiome and heightened levels of fecal alkaline phosphatase.
The researchers posit that variations between these findings and those from previous research could stem from discrepancies in trial designs and differing living communities of the participants.
Gut microbiota composition at the phylum level in the two intervention groups, at baseline (initial) and 4 weeks after intervention (final). Bars represent the average of each bacterial phylum relative abundance. Each phylum is represented by a different color. (CREDIT: ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry)
Moreover, from this preliminary study, the researchers articulate that ingesting a single bottle of beer, irrespective of its alcohol level, could potentially confer benefits to the gut microbiome and intestinal health in men. Nonetheless, they underscore that since the safest alcohol consumption level is zero, opting for non-alcoholic beer might emerge as the healthier alternative.
Bottom line from a cardiologist:
Choosing not to consume alcohol does not equate to missing out; in fact, it's not advised to start if you haven’t already. Alcohol brings with it various negative repercussions such as an elevated risk of developing cancer, succumbing to liver disease, pancreatitis, and being involved in accidents, as well as becoming susceptible to violence and suicide.
Microbial diversity measured by Shannon’s diversity index in the two intervention groups, at baseline (initial) and 4 weeks after intervention (final). Values are expressed as mean ± standard deviation (n = 9–10). *P < 0.05 vs initial. (CREDIT: ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry)
Instead of relying on alcohol, there are alternative, healthier strategies to mitigate the risk of heart disease. Engaging in regular exercise, adhering to a balanced diet, and eliminating smoking from your lifestyle present benefits without exposing you to the additional dangers associated with alcohol consumption. Furthermore, occasional drinking, when kept within moderate limits, generally does not pose a threat.
Nonetheless, exceptions exist, underscoring the importance of discussing your alcohol consumption with a healthcare professional. Some individuals may need to avoid alcohol altogether as it could exacerbate their existing conditions. Additionally, combining alcohol with certain medications might provoke detrimental side effects.
If you drink alcohol, limit yourself to no more than:
two drinks a day most days, to a weekly maximum of 10 for women.*
three drinks a day most days, to a weekly maximum of 15 for men.
“A drink” means
341 mL / 12 oz (1 bottle) of regular strength beer (5% alcohol).
142 mL / 5 oz wine (12% alcohol).
43 mL / 1 1/2 oz spirits (40% alcohol).
The authors acknowledge funding from the Programa Operacional Competitividade e Internacionalização – COMPETE2020, Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT), the Center for Health and Technology and Services Research (CINTESIS) and the Comprehensive Health Research Center (CHRC).
For more science news stories check out our New Discoveries section at The Brighter Side of News.
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