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Is Beer Bad For You?

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Beer is an alcoholic drink made by brewing and fermenting cereal grains such as malted barley and flavored with hops. For years, beer has been a popular alcoholic beverage among people worldwide, particularly men.

Beer is one of the world’s celebrated drinks. This is because it is a versatile option for drinking at social occasions or events. However, for many beer drinkers, consumption is not limited to social events. People also drink it on normal days to wind down.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), men are more likely than women to drink excessively. As of 2019, 7 percent of men reportedly had an alcohol use disorder compared to an estimated 4 percent of women. 

People have extensively argued whether a beer is good or bad for health. In line with this argument, this article discusses the meaning of moderate alcohol consumption, what is considered excessive drinking, and the downsides and upsides of drinking beer. 

The Downsides of Drinking Beer

Drinking beer, particularly heavy drinking or binge drinking, has harmful effects. Studies have shown that drinking alcohol might be associated with liver cirrhosis, dementia, and depression. 

Binge drinking means drinking excessively to the point that the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) increases to up to 0.08 percent.

This corresponds to five or more drinks (females) or five or more drinks (males) within 2 hours.

Heavy drinking means consuming more than four drinks daily or more than 14 in a week (for men) or consuming more than three drinks per day or more than seven drinks per week (for women).

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

Here are some of the downsides of drinking beer:

Liver disease

Research has directly linked alcohol consumption to liver disease mortality. This means consuming drinks containing alcohol such as beer can predispose one to liver diseases such as cirrhosis

The severity of alcohol-induced liver disease typically depends on factors like the pattern, amount, and duration of alcohol consumption and other factors like nutrition and genetics. 

Cancer risk

If you drink beer excessively, you have a higher risk of developing certain types of cancer, such as mouth and throat cancers. Alcohol contains empty calories, which can cause weight gain; excessive weight gain causes an increased risk of cancer. Also, alcohol can cause an increase in estrogen and other hormones linked to breast cancer.

Mental health

Depression is a mental health disorder. Epidemiology shows that it affects an estimated 264 million people. Studies have suggested that heavy beer drinkers or binge drinkers have an increased risk of depression than non-drinkers and moderate drinkers. It can also predispose them to anxiety.

Weight gain

While moderate drinking doesn’t seem to be associated with being overweight or obesity, research has shown that heavy drinking or binge drinking can cause weight gain. Studies have associated obesity with other health complications, such as the increased risk of diabetes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), other downsides of excessive beer consumption include:

  • Increased risk of chronic diseases like heart diseases, high blood pressure, and digestive problems
  • Alcohol use disorders or alcohol dependence
  • Social problems, e.g., family problems
  • Reduced productivity
  • Weakened immune system
  • Learning and memory problems

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7 Surprising Health Benefits of Beer

Scientists and physicians advise against excessive alcohol consumption due to its side effects. This has made it seem like nothing good comes from drinking beer. However, you’ll be surprised to learn that beer can benefit cardiovascular health and overall health. 

Beer contains polyphenols, amino acids, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, which offer health benefits such as the reduced risk of heart disease, reduction in blood sugar level, and stronger bones. Research has reported a decrease in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol with moderate alcohol consumption, causing a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases. 

Surprising health benefits of moderate beer consumption include:

  1. It might reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
  2. It might raise HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) level
  3. Reduces LDL cholesterol level, which is a risk factor of high blood pressure
  4. Beneficial to heart health and might reduce the risk of heart attack
  5. Natural compounds from beer constituents exert antioxidant activity, protecting cells from free radicals
  6. Aids bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis
  7. It may lower the risk of dementia, which conditions like Alzheimer’s disease can cause

Most alcohol-related studies are observational studies that show correlation and not causation. You can’t conclusively say that alcohol plays an essential role in reducing common diseases like heart disease. However, some strong evidence, such as an increase in HDL, points towards its benefit to heart health. The key is to focus on moderation, as excessive intake will harm your health.

Harvard Health Publishing

How Much Beer is Too Much?

Health experts advise that people drink beer in moderation. But how much beer is too much? 

Moderate drinking means consuming less than two drinks a day for women and less than three drinks a day for men. This means you are drinking too much beer if you have more than this number of drinks in a day. 

Also, you are consuming too much beer if you drink five or more drinks (for men) on a single occasion or four or more drinks (for women) on a single occasion. This is known as binge drinking.  

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What is Moderate Alcohol Intake? What is Considered One Beer?

Moderate drinkers are alcohol consumers that drink moderate amounts of alcohol. But, how do you know if you are a moderate drinker or a heavy drinker? 

According to Harvard Health Publishing, moderate alcohol intake means one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. 

There are three categories of alcoholic drinks: beer, liquor, and wine.

While beer is made from fermented cereals, wine is made from fermented grapes and fruits (e.g., red wine). Beer contains a smaller amount of alcohol than wine. Unlike beer and wine, which are brewed, liquor is distilled from plants and grains (e.g., vodka, rum, and gin). Liquor has the highest alcohol content of the three drinks. 

One beer is 12 ounces of regular beer, which is about 5 percent alcohol. This also represents one standard drink as it contains roughly 14 grams of pure alcohol.

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What is a ‘Beer Belly’?

You may have heard of the phrase ‘beer belly.’ But beer is not necessarily to blame for a large belly. People with beer bellies do not usually follow healthy diets or get enough exercise.

Too many calories of any type can lead to a beer belly. Yet consuming too much beer is often blamed as the reason for the abdominal pouch.

Liquid calories are easy to overconsume. You do not get a sense of fullness, and when drinking beer, the calories add up quickly.

If you want to avoid the beer belly, consider choosing a light beer with around 64 to 110 calories. Remember that alcohol makes you hungry and lowers your inhibitions, so you may eat more than you planned when drinking.

Do You Have a Drinking Problem? Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

If you drink light beer, you are most likely not at risk of experiencing the side effects of alcohol consumption. People with drinking problems usually show symptoms of alcohol use disorders and might need healthcare.

Symptoms of alcoholism or alcohol use disorders include:

  • Inability to reduce or stop alcohol consumption even after attempting to do so
  • Drinking more alcohol than intended
  • Uncontrollable craving for alcohol
  • Failure to carry out everyday activities due to alcohol intake
  • Continuing alcohol intake despite its negative effect on health
  • Developing tolerance to alcoholic drinks
  • Developing withdrawal symptoms after stopping use abruptly

Physical symptoms of AUD include:

  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Profuse sweating
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Rapid heartbeat

Treatment Options/Resources for Alcohol Misuse & Addiction

Professional help is available for people suffering from alcohol misuse and addiction. Depending on the addiction case, a patient will receive either inpatient or outpatient treatment or both. 

It will help to check into an alcohol rehab center close to you.

Your treatment might involve any of the following options:

  • Inpatient program: Here, you get 24/7 comprehensive, well-structured care with close medical monitoring.
  • Outpatient program: The care you receive with this treatment is not as intensive as an inpatient program. However, you still receive the needed therapy and support in a conducive environment.
  • Partial hospitalization programs: Just like the name depicts, treatment is similar to an inpatient program. However, you go back home after your treatment each day.
  • Medical-assisted therapy (MAT): This treatment option involves using medications in combination with evidence-based therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
  • Support groups: Joining groups that support your recovery journey is an important part of treatment as this can help establish a long-term aftercare plan.
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Updated on June 2, 2022
8 sources cited
  1. “Alcohol Use and Your Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 23 Feb. 2021
  2. Blackburn Kellie. “Alcohol and Breast Cancer Risk: What to Know.” The University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Centre, Sept. 2017
  3. Bruha, Radan et al. “Alcoholic Liver Disease.” World Journal of Hepatology vol. 4,3 : 81-90
  4. Cheng, Alice W et al. “Heavy Drinking, Poor Mental Health, and Substance Use Among Asian Americans in the NLAAS: A Gender-Based Comparison.” Asian American Journal of Psychology vol. 3,3 : 160-167
  5. “Drinking Levels Defined.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
  6. “Excessive Alcohol Use is a Risk to Men’s Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 23 Oct. 2020
  7. “Facts about Alcohol and Heart Health.” Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, August 2018
  8. “Moderate Drinking and How to Keep it that Way.” Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, August 2011

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