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Beer: Good or bad?

Potential benefits and downsides of beer.

Because emerging research has shown that wine has benefits in moderation, many people also wonder if beer could be good for you. This article explores beer nutrition, potential benefits, and downsides.

Evidence-based
This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts, and fact-checked by experts.
We look at both sides of the argument and strive to be objective, unbiased, and honest.
Last updated on November 3, 2022, and last reviewed by an expert on October 2, 2022.

Beer is a popular alcoholic beverage made by brewing and fermenting cereal grains with yeast, hops, and other flavoring agents. Most types of beer contain 4–6% alcohol, but the beverage can range from 0.5–40%.

People around the world have been drinking beer for thousands of years.

Because emerging research has shown that moderate amounts of wine may have health benefits, many people wonder if beer can be good for you.

This article explores the nutrition of beer, as well as its potential benefits and downsides.

Beer nutrition

Though beer is often viewed as empty calories, it contains some minerals and vitamins.

Below is a nutrition comparison of 12 ounces (355 mL) of standard and light beer:

Standard beer

Light beer

In addition, both types contain small amounts of potassium, calcium, thiamine, iron, and zinc. The content of B vitamins and minerals is a result of beer being made from cereal grains and yeast.

Notably, light beer has around two-thirds of the calories of regular beer and slightly less alcohol.

Though beer contains small amounts of micronutrients, it isn’t a good source compared with whole foods like fruits and vegetables. You need to drink massive amounts of beer to meet your daily nutrient requirements.

Summary: Beer contains various B vitamins and minerals because it’s made from cereal grains and yeast. However, whole foods like fruits and vegetables are a better source. You shouldn’t use beer to reach your daily nutrient needs.

Potential benefits of beer

Light to moderate beer intake may be linked to some health benefits.

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Beer may benefit your heart

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States.

Several studies suggest that light to moderate beer and alcohol intake may be associated with a lower risk of heart disease.

A 12-week study in 36 adults with overweight found that moderate beer intake — one drink for women, two drinks for men per day — improved the antioxidant properties of HDL (good) cholesterol while also improving the body’s ability to remove cholesterol.

An extensive review stated that low to moderate beer intake — up to one drink per day in women, up to two for men — could lower heart disease risk to a similar extent as wine.

However, it’s important to note that these potential benefits are only related to light to moderate intake. On the other hand, heavy alcohol consumption can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Beer may improve blood sugar control

Light to moderate alcohol intake may improve blood sugar control, an issue for many people with diabetes.

Several studies have found that light to moderate alcohol intake reduces insulin resistance — a risk factor for diabetes — and the overall risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Moreover, a large study with over 70,500 participants associated moderate alcohol intake — 14 drinks per week for men and nine drinks per week for women — with a 43% and 58% lower risk of diabetes for men and women, respectively.

However, heavy and binge drinking can counter these benefits and significantly increase the risk of diabetes.

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It’s also important to note that this potential benefit doesn’t apply to beers and other alcoholic beverages that contain high amounts of sugar.

Other potential benefits of beer

Light to moderate beer intake may be associated with these benefits:

Summary: Light to moderate beer intake may be associated with a lower risk of heart disease, improved blood sugar control, stronger bones, and reduced dementia risk. However, heavy and binge drinking has the opposite effect.

Downsides of beer

Though light to moderate beer intake has potential benefits, heavy and binge drinking can be extremely harmful.

Below are some of the adverse effects of drinking too much alcohol:

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To reduce the risk of adverse health consequences, limiting your intake to no more than one standard drink per day for women and two for men.

In the United States, a standard drink contains approximately 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is the amount typically found in 12 ounces (355 mL) of regular beer, 5 ounces (150 mL) of wine, or 1.5 ounces (45 mL) of spirit.

Summary: Heavy beer and alcohol intake has several negative effects, including a higher risk of early death, alcohol dependence, depression, liver disease, weight gain, and cancers.

Is beer good for your health?

In short, the health effects of drinking beer are mixed.

Though small amounts may be associated with benefits, heavy or binge drinking is associated with adverse health effects. These include an increased risk of an alcohol use disorder, depression, liver disease, weight gain, cancers, and death.

Remember that even though drinking alcohol may offer some benefits, you can achieve the same positive effects by enjoying a varied nutrient-rich diet of whole foods like fruits and vegetables.

Compared with standard beer, light beer contains a similar amount of vitamins and minerals but slightly fewer calories and less alcohol. This makes light beer a better option if you’re deciding between the two.

Finally, some wonder if drinking beer after a workout can aid their recovery.

While some evidence shows that drinking a low-alcohol beer with electrolytes can improve rehydration, other studies have shown that alcohol can hinder muscle growth and recovery.

In addition, it’s more effective to rehydrate by drinking nonalcoholic electrolyte beverages.

Summary: The health benefits of drinking beer are mixed. Though drinking small amounts may be beneficial, the beverage has many harmful side effects.

Summary

Beer is a popular alcoholic beverage that’s been around for thousands of years.

In the United States, a standard beer is 12 ounces (355 mL). Drinking one or two standard beers daily may have positive effects, such as benefits to your heart, better blood sugar control, stronger bones, and reduced dementia risk.

However, heavy and binge drinking counters these potential health benefits. It is instead associated with a higher risk of early death, alcohol dependence or alcohol use disorder, depression, liver disease, weight gain, and cancers.

Though low to moderate amounts of alcohol may offer some benefits, you can achieve the same positive effects by enjoying a varied nutrient-rich diet of whole foods like fruits and vegetables.

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