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Drink Beer to (Possibly) Prevent Osteoporosis

5/5/2011 1:40:14 PM

Tags: Lauren Holt, Beer, Traditional Medicine, Osteoporosis, Heart Disease, Hops, Barley

L.HoltYou’ve probably heard about the potential benefits of a glass of red wine in the evenings, but what about beer? According to a study in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, moderate beer consumption may help prevent osteoporosis.

The idea of beer as a medicinal is hardly new. According to research on ancient Nubian remains, brewers 2,000 years ago regularly and purposefully crafted beer that contained the antibiotic-producing Streptomyces bacteria. In 17th century Europe, ale made with sage was considered a medicinal tonic for both general health and to aid women in childbirth.

More recent developments have shown that Guinness and other dark beers contain high levels of antioxidants, and that beer in general may help prevent adult-onset diabetes. Spas in the Czach Republic and Germany are offering beer baths—the heat sweats toxins from your skin, hops exfoliate your body and the active yeast contributes vitamins. The process is supposed to help with acne, boost the immune system, loosen joints and relax muscles. Moderate alcohol intake can reduce the risk of coronary heart failure as well.

Different beers may have varying health benefits.
Photo by Adam Fagen/Courtesy

The evidence for beer’s role in preventing osteoporosis is based on the beverage’s silicon content. The barley used for creating malts (and especially the barley husk) is rich in this essential element, which contributes to bone density and joint elasticity. Hops, the most common herbal beer ingredient, is also rich in silicon. Hops actually contain more silicon than barley, but are used in smaller quantities for brewing. If you would add more silicon to your diet, consider India Pale Ales and barley malts over wheat malts. The brewing process helps your body absorb more of the element than you usually would from other foods. If beer’s not for you, concentrate on eating more fruits and vegetables, which also contain silicon. Some examples include apples, oranges, grapes, cherries, celery, cucumber, spinach and dandelion greens. Other sources include peanuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, raw oats and brown rice.

Remember that silicon and antioxidants aren’t the only things that come in beer. Moderate consumption is key to insure that your caloric intake doesn’t overwhelm the potential health benefits, and alcohol in larger quantities can severely impair decision-making processes. 

The information contained in the study mentioned here is based on preliminary research only. Further research is required to determine the true influence of beer on health. Please consult a health professional if you have any health concerns or are taking any medications or supplements that may interact with alcohol.  

Read More: Silicon: It’s good for you, especially in beer - CNet News  
Beer is a rich source of silicon and may help prevent osteoporosis - Science Daily 
Good News for Beer Drinkers - Alchol in Moderation Digest 
Alcohol and cardiovascular diseases: A historical overview - PubMed 
The Buzz on Beer’s Health Benefits - Tufts University   
Guinness Could Really Be Good for You - BBC News 
On Tap: Medicinal Beer Baths - Organic Authority 
Medicinal beer? New study shows maybe the ancient Nubians were onto something - Mercury News 
Ancient Brewmasters Made Medicinal Beer - Scientific American 
Sacred Herbal and Healing Beers, by Stephen Harrod Buhner  

And look out for my article "Browse Botanical Beers" in the upcoming June/July 2011 issue of The Herb Companion for more information about ancient brewing traditions!

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