LISBON, Portugal — Love beer? Then you’ll definitely enjoy this study out of Portugal. Scientists there conclude that having a bottle of beer each with dinner each night may actually improve gut health!
Researchers at NOVA University in Lisbon report that beer boosts healthy bacteria that fend off diseases and infections. The benefits come from polyphenols — plant compounds found in hops, barley and yeast. For those who don’t drink, there’s still good news: even non-alcoholic beer appears to have the same benefits.
It’s worth noting that the double-blind study wasn’t conducted with a large, diverse sample size. There were just 19 participants — and all were men between the ages of 23 and 58. But the main takeaway is that those who drank either one alcoholic or non-alcoholic lager daily (330mL) were shown to have a more diverse microbiome.
The men, all in good health prior to the study, consumed their beer with dinner each night for four weeks. At the beginning and end of the study period, researchers took blood and stool samples from participants. They found notable improvements in intestinal health in those who consumed both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beer.
There was no change in the volunteers’ weight, BMI (body mass index) and blood markers for heart health during the period.
Having a healthy gut microbiome is key for overall health. The trillions of microbes help fight off a host of life-threatening conditions. Keeping the right balance reduces the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart problems, cancer and dementia.
Beer, the scientists explain, contains compounds like polyphenols, and other microorganisms that occur during fermentation. It’s believed they help influence gut health and lead to a more diverse microbiome.
Fermented food and drink products are popular for people aiming to improve gut health because they contain probiotics that boost their microbiome. Now there’s some proof that having a bottle of beer each night can be part of that gut-healthy routine.
“These results suggest the effects of beer on gut microbiota modulation are independent of alcohol and may be mediated by beer polyphenols,” the authors write.
Beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage in the world. Moderate intake has been found to be protective against cardiovascular disease in a similar way to wine. It is the only source of hop polyphenols in the human diet. They are responsible for the aroma and bitterness of ale.
“Beer polyphenols might reach the gut where they can modulate bacterial growth. In addition, some beers may contain live fermentation microorganisms,” notes lead author Ana Faria, a professor at NOVA. “The Flemish Gut Flora Project, one of the largest population-wide studies to assess the variation of gut microbiota among healthy individuals, has shown beer consumption is a key influence on the overall microbiota composition. Therefore, given the importance of the gut microbiota in the pathophysiology of obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, gut microbiota modulation might constitute another mechanism mediating the effects of beer on health.”
The findings are published in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.
South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.