beer and cholesterol

To beer or not to beer? The Beer and cholesterol connection!

Beer and cholesterol: Know the Alcohol mediated protective effects for your cardiac health.

We all know that alcohol consumption exerts multiple consequences on human health, but studies show that moderate drinkers show lower cardio vascular risk as compared to both heavy drinkers and abstainers.  

Now, Let’s talk about Beer, which is a product of cereal fermentation composed of 90% water and 10% sugars, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, alcohol and polyphenols. One common concern about beer is “beer raises your cholesterol levels”. Have we not heard this?  

In order to understand the relation between Beer and cholesterol we need to look into the composition of Beer. 

Composition of Beer and its benefits 

As mentioned, beer is a product of cereal fermentation which is Malt. Beer comes action-packed with nutrients like  

  • Minerals: About 75% of the minerals come from malt fermentation while the remaining 25% of minerals are obtained from water per se. Important minerals present in Beer include silicon, potassium, and sodium. Beer has a relatively higher ratio of potassium to sodium (4:1) which is responsible for keeping blood pressure at normal and healthy ranges.  
  • Vitamins: Small quantities of many B vitamins are present in beer. Research shows increased bioavailability of B Vitamins with moderate beer consumption of 1 can (330 ml/d) for women and 2 cans (660 ml / d) for men.  

Germination of malted barley promotes a 3 to 6 fold increase in levels of Vitamin B2, doubles the levels of vitamin B3 and folate. Vitamin B12, which is typically known to be found in animal proteins and micro-organisms is present in beer due to yeast. Beer Consumption helps to maintain homocysteine levels in normal range due to high folate content, as high homocysteine levels can lead to cardiovascular diseases.  

  • Amino acids: Proline and lysine are the most important amino acids in beer. Which can help in sustaining cardiac performance by lowering the blood pressure of hypertensive people.  
  • Alcohol: Different kinds of beer are available with an alcohol content ranging from 3.5 – 10 % weight/volume. Your regular beer contains 5% alcohol content and some beers with the strongest alcoholic content go up to 8%. Though it’s proven to reduce the risk of heart diseases when consumed in moderation, it’s very important to know how much alcohol your drink contains.  
  • Polyphenols: Apart from other ingredients beer contains polyphenols which impart the characteristic flavor to beer. Catechin, epicatechin and gallocatechin and many other components are present. Xanthohumol is a beer specific polyphenol (the hero component of beer) responsible for anticarcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.   
  • Fiber: It must be surprising to most of you to see that beer also contains fiber which is mostly soluble fiber derived from cell walls of barley and the indigestible carbs. The European food safety authority (EFSA) concluded that the fiber from barley has shown to lower bad cholesterol levels.  

What are the types of cholesterol in our human body 

  1. HDL – High density Lipoproteins – also known as the “good cholesterol”.  It plays a protective role in the human body, allowing excretion of cholesterol out of the body. It is very important to maintain good HDL levels to avoid any cardiovascular risks.  
  2. LDL – Low density Lipoproteins – also known as “bad cholesterol”. High LDL leads to a buildup of cholesterol in your arteries.  

Here are some common queries on Beer and cholesterol  

  • Can beer increase your cholesterol levels? 

Yes! Research shows that your total cholesterol levels increase on beer consumption, perhaps this increase is supported by significant rise in HDL levels and not LDL or triglycerides.  

NOTE: This is only considered in line with moderate alcohol consumption. 

  • Are beers high in cholesterol? 

Well, it’s a NO. We saw that beer is made of malted barley, water and contains good amounts of vitamins, minerals and polyphenols. To conclude, beers are not high in cholesterol.  

  • Does Beer reduce bad cholesterol levels? 

Absolutely, as we previously saw beers are good sources of soluble fiber, they can help in reducing bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase the levels of good cholesterol (HDL).
Keep in mind – moderation is the key.  

  • Can beer be a part of a healthy lifestyle? 

First of all, there is an obvious risk of medical and social harm from alcohol abuse. And you don’t have to drink alcoholic beverages for your health. There are many other ways to stay healthy. Those who are used to drinking alcoholic beverages are advised to limit their intake to a maximum of two drinks per day for men and a maximum of one drink for women. The most favorable drinking pattern is regular daily or almost daily drinking, while avoiding the clearly harmful binge drinking.  

Keeping this in mind, beer consumption can be part of a healthy lifestyle. 

  • What is known specific about beer and Cholesterol/ Heart Health? 

Research suggests that regular and moderate consumption of beer seems to provide greater cardiovascular protection than spirits because of the polyphenols in these beverages. However, many more studies show that moderate alcohol consumption in general, irrespective of the type of beverage, reduces cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. So, the largest part of the protective effects of beer is due to the alcohol and polyphenol content. Polyphenols such as xanthohumol and iso-xanthohumol might contribute to health but play a much smaller role. 

  • The Mediterranean diet is often associated with wine, but can wine be replaced by beer? 

The traditional Mediterranean diet includes frequent drinking of moderate doses of red wine with meals. But in ancient times this could also be beer. Thus, some experts have pointed out that beer should be included in the Mediterranean diet pyramid, together with red wine and cider. Even nowadays, several Mediterranean consumers replace wine with beer with their meals, especially in summer. For the protective effect on cardiovascular disease, it makes no difference if you drink wine or beer in this diet. 

Protective effects of moderate alcohol consumption  

  1. Increases HDL cholesterol: increased HDL cholesterol has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and lowers LDL cholesterol.  
  2. Improves insulin sensitivity: Moderate alcohol consumption can improve insulin sensitivity. Since insulin resistance is linked to CVD, the improvement of insulin sensitivity may be an additional mechanism by which alcohol consumption reduces the risk of CVD. 
  3. Decreases fibrinogen: Consumption of about 30 g of alcohol per day can reduce circulating levels of fibrinogen. This protein is the main ingredient of fibrin, which is a necessary factor for platelet aggregation. By decreasing fibrinogen levels, blood clots are less likely to form and as a result, this might decrease the risk of an infarction. 
  4. Reduces inflammatory markers: Alcohol consumption of about 30 g per day has been shown to decrease the plasma concentration of C-reactive protein (CRP) by 35%. CRP is the most commonly studied inflammation marker, active in acute inflammation.  

Things to keep in mind! 

  1. Although moderate beer consumption may have health benefits, you do not have to drink beer in moderate amounts for a healthy lifestyle. To ensure a healthy lifestyle, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends eating lots of fruit and vegetables, reducing fat, sugar and salt intake, and exercising. What is important is that if you do drink beer, do so responsibly and in moderation. 
  2. Alcohol affects women differently to men mainly because of their different body composition and lower average body weight. Women have a higher percentage of fat in their body and low percentage of body fluid. Since alcohol is water-soluble, it is distributed only in body fluid. Women will therefore have higher peak blood alcohol levels than men when they drink the same amount of alcohol.  

Bottom line! 

Beer is a versatile drink with a relatively low alcohol percentage, that when drank in moderation, can be part of an adult’s healthy lifestyle. Drinking beer in moderation may have positive effects on life expectancy, mainly due to the presence of alcohol. In addition to the effects associated with alcohol, other properties of beer have positive effects. Now you must have a better picture about Beer and cholesterol 

However, moderate alcohol consumption should always be considered as a supplement and not as an alternative to other healthy lifestyle choices that lower the risk of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and other diseases. People who do drink beer or other alcoholic beverages are encouraged to drink in moderation as part of a healthy diet. For people who don’t want to consume alcohol, non-alcoholic beer can be a good alternative. 

Malty is better than Salty 😉  


Written by Aishwarya Deepika, ENHAPP Wellness Coach & Nutritionist.

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