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Five Reasons to Have a Beer

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In a world infested by nutrition dogma, if we are not self flagellating in our dietary choices we are, apparently, self-destining to an early demise. The old adage 'everything in moderation' has become redundant, with all measures being judged by the outcome of its excesses. But why let the over indulgence and its consequential ill effects deny the pleasure and, even, benefits of sensible consumption?

And a prime example of an underserved, tarnished reputation is that of alcohol. Seen as a vice, more harmful than healthful - in binging amounts this can't be denied. But what about 'moderation' referring to two or less drinks a day for men and one or less for women? It may come as a surprise to learn that the US Centre for Disease Control has listed 'moderate consumption of alcohol' along side non-smoking, healthy diet, and physical activity as 'four healthy lifestyle behaviours that exert a powerful and beneficial effect on mortality' [1].

So grab your glass with a frothy head and raise a toast to good health, as we rundown the top five reasons why beer is staving off the prevalent afflictions of aging.

1. Brain Booster
If there's one thing those of us who have over-imbibed can attest to is that alcohol and gray matter functioning don't go well together. But, forget the binging and get back to the philosophy of moderation, and we find alcohol is only beneficial for the brain. We now know that moderate intakes slow down the deterioration in cognition, attention span, and psychomotor skills that comes with aging [2]. A meta-analysis of the evidence found habitual light to moderate alcohol intake was associated with a significant 28% lower incidence of Alzheimer's disease in later life [3].

2. Diabetes Defender
Studies consistently show that moderate alcohol consumption is linked with a 30-40% lower risk of type 2 diabetes, compared with abstainers. A meta-analysis of prospective observational studies, totalling 477 200 men and women, found the greatest benefit at 22-24 grams of alcohol a day i.e. 3 units, after accounting for other lifestyle factors [4].

3. Gallstone Grinder
The European Prospective Study, following over 25,000 men and women for 14 years, found that for every unit of alcohol men ingest a week the risk of gallstones decreases by 3%. Indulging in a pint of beer a day slashes our risk of developing gallstones by circa 40% [5].

4. Heart Healthy
A recent British Medical Journal review of the evidence found moderate alcohol intake to be associated with a 14-25% reduction in cardiovascular disease, compared to abstainers [6]. The reduction is attributable to alcohol's beneficial effects on HDL cholesterol, endothelial function and clotting factors. The majority of benefit appears confined to middle-aged and older adults.

5. Nutritional Nuggets
Beer possesses a trove of nutritional gems, often lacking in the UK diet, providing valuable minerals and vitamins including; potassium, phosphorous, B vitamins and magnesium; 10-12% of UK men's magnesium intake - a nutrient over 80% of us don't get enough of - comes from beer consumption.

Well I'm off to the pub for a cool, crisp, wheat lager, what are you having?

1. Ford E.S. et al. Am J Public Health. 2011;101(10):1922-9.
2. Solfrizzi V. et al. Expert Rev Neurother. 2011;11(5):677-708.
3. Anstey K.J. et al. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2009;17(7):542-55.
4. Baliunas D.O. et al. Diabetes Care. 2009;32(11):2123-32.
5. Banim P.J. et al. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2011;23(8):733-40.
6. Ronksley P.E. et al. BMJ. 2011;342:d671.

Presented by Breast Cancer Campaign