Most people have heard that red wine reduces the risk of heart disease (a phenomenon known as the French paradox). What most people don’t know is that many observational studies have concluded that beer is healthy too and it is as beneficial as red wine (in light to moderate amounts) in terms of lowering the risk for dying from cardiovascular disease.
Why beer is healthy
Some of the heart-healthy benefits in beer come from the alcohol itself, while others come from the phytochemicals in hops as well as barley and other grains.[1,6] While it’s well established that drinking beer (or any alcohol) heavily or binge drinking is bad for your health, light to moderate drinking (no more than one serving of alcohol a day for women and 2 for men) is associated with significant reductions in death from all causes, and particularly death from cardiovascular diseases like heart disease.
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Researchers are still working to determine how the alcohol and the phytochemicals work to improve cardiovascular health and decrease the risk of heart disease. Beer has anti-inflammatory properties and also offers significant protection from oxidative stress in the bloodstream due to its antioxidant components. Recently, researchers discovered that hops and other phytochemicals in beer have increase stem cells known as “circulating endothelial progenitor cells” which repair and maintain the integrity and function of blood vessel walls.
How much beer is okay?
Light to moderate drinking is generally considered one to three servings of alcohol per day.
- A serving of alcohol is 12 oz. of regular beer or 5 oz. of wine.
- Standard beer contains 5% alcohol. Some stronger beers may contain almost double that amount (~9%). Twelve ounces of stronger, higher-alcohol beer might, therefore, count as two servings.
Too much beer can raise triglycerides
If you go over these consumption guidelines, your beer drinking becomes riskier and could be a cause of high triglycerides. Numerous studies show that the more beer you drink, the higher your triglyceride levels.[2,3] While beer seems to be particularly problematic, all forms of alcohol can raise triglycerides. One recent study found that drinking between 15 and 30 grams of alcohol per day, the amount in about one to two 12 oz. beers, increases triglycerides by 25%, while drinking more than 30 grams of alcohol per day increased triglycerides by 46%. So have your beer if you want, but limit it to one or two a day. (Generally, women should have one drink while men can have two.)
Share your experience
How does alcohol fit into your healthy lifestyle? Have you made any changes in your consumption to address your health? Tell us about it in the comments section below.
This post originally appeared in 2014 and has been updated.