A study conducted by researchers at NOVA University in Lisbon has shown that lager beer, when consumed in moderation, improves the gut health in men and thereby reduces the risk for certain diseases. The study was published today in the ACS Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Previous studies have shown some health benefits of drinking wine in moderation. These benefits have been attributed to polyphenols in the drink. Polyphenols are a class of micronutrients that occur naturally in plants and, along with other compounds found in foods, serve as antioxidants in the body.
As a result of various cellular processes, tissues undergo a phenomenon called oxidative stress, which is associated with diseases such as cancer and heart diseases and antioxidants work to counter this phenomenon. So, theoretically, a drink with polyphenols would be good for health, and the researchers wanted to know if beer consumption also had similar effects.
Has this not been studied before?
A previous study that included both men and women has previously shown that drinking non-alcoholic beer for 30 days improved the diversity of gut bacteria in the body. Bacteria and other organisms in the human gut, commonly referred to as a microbiome, are a new subject of scientific focus since they have been found to play a role in the development of various diseases such as Parkinson's.
Studies have also found that when the diversity of gut bacteria is higher, the risk for diseases is lower. Conversely, the study also found that those drinking beer with alcoholic content did not show the same gut diversity. Since the study design allowed the participants to drink alcoholic and non-alcoholic beers, the researchers at NOVA University decided to carry out a study that ran in parallel and did not allow cross-overs to determine the real impact of drinking beer.
How was the study carried out? What did it find?
The researchers recruited a total of 19 male participants who were divided into two groups. Each participant was provided with lager beers without the original labels, so they did not know whether they were consuming alcoholic or non-alcoholic beers. The beer was consumed every day for a period of four weeks without changing physical activity levels or dietary intake.
Stool samples were collected from the participants prior to the beginning of the study and throughout the course of the study to determine if there was a change in microbiome diversity. In addition to this, blood samples were collected from the participants on a weekly basis.
At the end of the four-week period, both groups showed an increase in bacterial gut diversity even as their weight, body mass index, and markers for heart health remain unchanged. The researchers also tested the stool samples for alkaline phosphatase, a marker of intestinal health, and found it improved in both groups as well.
Based on their findings, the researchers suggest that drinking beer every day might be good for intestinal health. Since alcohol consumption has documented side effects, the researchers recommend opting for non-alcoholic beers to maximize benefits.
Gut microbiota modulation might constitute a mechanism mediating the effects of beer on health. In this randomized, double-blinded, two-arm parallel trial, 22 healthy men were recruited to drink 330 mL of nonalcoholic beer (0.0% v/v) or alcoholic beer (5.2% v/v) daily during a 4-week follow-up period. Blood and faecal samples were collected before and after the intervention period. Gut microbiota was analyzed by 16S rRNA gene sequencing. Drinking nonalcoholic or alcoholic beer daily for 4 weeks did not increase body weight and body fat mass and did not changed significantly serum cardiometabolic biomarkers. Nonalcoholic and alcoholic beer increased gut microbiota diversity which has been associated with positive health outcomes and tended to increase faecal alkaline phosphatase activity, a marker of intestinal barrier function. These results suggest the effects of beer on gut microbiota modulation are independent of alcohol and may be mediated by beer polyphenols.