By Sharon Tanenbaum
St. Patrick's Day revelers, take note: Your favorite pint may be healthier than you realize. When it comes to good-for-you happy hour beverages, we tend to think mainly of red wine and its heart-friendly antioxidants. Recent research, however, reveals that beer may help what ales you, from reducing the risk of osteoporosis to beating brain fog. But before you go on a beer binge, remember that moderation is key to reap its health perks. That means two 12-ounce drinks a day for men and one for women.
"If you overdo it, alcohol can actually take a toll on your health by causing weight gain, raising blood pressure, and more," says Andrea Giancoli, RD, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. A 12-ounce regular beer can pack up to 150 calories (a light beer has around 100), which can add up quickly after multiple rounds.
Here are five healthy reasons to toast your next beer:
Beer Boost No. 1: A Stronger Skeleton
Make no bones about it: Beer in moderation may protect bone health thanks to its high silicon content. Participants who sipped one or two beers a day had greater bone mineral density than those who drank more or fewer beers, found a 2009 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. "Silicon helps stimulate bone-building cells, and the estrogenic effect of alcohol also has a protective quality for bones," says study author Katherine Tucker, PhD, professor of nutritional epidemiology at Northeastern University in Boston. Which brew boasts the most silicon? Try an India Pale Ale. A 2010 University of California Davis study found that IPAs had the highest levels of the mineral.Healthy Twists on Your Favorite Cocktails
Beer Boost No. 2: A More Powerful Ticker
A beer a day may keep heart disease away. "Alcohol raises levels of 'good' HDL cholesterol," says Arthur Klatsky, MD, senior consultant in cardiology at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif. "It also has anti-clotting effects, which keeps blood vessels clear and healthy." In fact, Israeli researchers found that people who drank one beer daily had lower levels of fibrinogen, a protein that helps promote blood clotting, than those who abstained from drinking. (Blood clots can raise your risk of heart attack and stroke.) Study participants drank pale ale (in this case, Maccabee beer), but researchers believe that any type of beer could have similar heart-healthy effects.Are You Getting the Right Heart Tests?
Beer Boost No. 3: Healthier Kidneys
Finnish researchers found that men who drank beer had a 40 percent lower risk of kidney stones compared to those who drank other types of alcohol. The benefit may be due to beer's high water content. Dehydration can increase the risk of kidney stones, which are little deposits of salt and minerals such as calcium that can form in your kidneys. Beer's hops (a kind of flower that gives beer its bitter flavor and acts as a preservative) may also help prevent kidney stones by slowing the release of calcium from bones.
Beer Boost No. 4: Better Brain Power
While excessive alcohol intake can cause irreparable brain damage, moderate daily consumption actually safeguards a sharp mind, research shows. One classic New England Journal of Medicine study, which analyzed the drinking habits of about 11,000 women over more than 15 years, found that those who had up to one drink a day had a 20 percent lower risk of brain function decline (as measured by memory and other cognition tests) than nondrinkers. Alcohol intake may protect blood vessels in the brain and also lower stroke risk, say researchers.8 Myths About Dementia
Beer Boost No. 5: Lower Cancer Risk
Beer's health benefits aren't limited to those who drink it: Marinating steak in your favorite brew could eliminate up to 88 percent of the carcinogens that form as a result of grilling or pan-frying meat, according to a Portuguese study. Cooking meat at high temperatures creates cancer-causing compounds known as heterocyclic amines (HCAs). Researchers think that the sugars in beer help prevent HCA formation.
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