For once, there is a bit of good news amongst the scientific studies – it appears that our gut microbes are partial to a beer!
We are only just starting to appreciate the health benefits associated with our microbiome – the population of bacteria, fungi and other micro-organisms that live in our gut. A healthy and varied microbiome seems to correlate with better heart and brain health, lower weight, and less risk of inflammatory conditions….though the full details of this are still being worked out by researchers.
We also know that our gut bacteria love a diet rich in fibre, ideally with lots of variety. Fermented foods are also associated with a happy microbiome. So, it’s perhaps no surprise that beer has been found to be a good way to boost your gut health.
Beer is created by fermentation of cereal crops and, though 90% water, the remaining 10% is made up of a variety of minerals, vitamins, amino acids, alcohol and polyphenols, such as the flavonoids, flavanols and proanthocyanins. Yeasts are also used in the fermentation process and produce additional beneficial compounds such as melatonin, tryptophol and serotonin. All of these various antioxidants and other micronutrients have been shown to help health in a variety of different ways.
Unfortunately, though, the excess calorie consumption from numerous pints of beer can lead to weight gain, hence the term ‘beer-gut’. And that centrally distributed fat is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
We also know that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. There’s no point in undoing all the good work provided by the beneficial components of beer, with a hefty dose of alcohol.
But, the good news is, a recent study has shown a similar improvement in diversity of the gut microbiome and other markers of gut health, in men drinking a bottle of non-alcoholic lager a day for 4 weeks, compared to men drinking an alcoholic version.
So, I guess a ‘beer-gut’ can be healthy after all ….as long as it’s based on low or no-alcohol lager and doesn’t involve a tightening waistband! And of course, it goes without saying that there is no real safe limit to drinking and driving.