It was the news beer lovers have been waiting for. Careerists, professionals, celebrities, socialites and style and entertainment buffs have long wonder if beer is really healthy drink or has any benefit for their health and wellbeing? Same for those who have been looking for proof or otherwise to the claim that beer is responsible for lower abdominal obesity (pot belly or what people refer to as ‘beer belly)?
Dateline Tuesday, November 4, 2014, experts in medical science, food technology, nutrition and related sciences answered these and many questions while lecturing the public on the health and other benefits of beer at the First Nigerian Beer & Health Symposium, sponsored by Nigerian Breweries on the bill of its flagship lager beer brand, Star Lager.
The unique symposium which held inside the cosy bowels of the sprawling Iris & Jazmine Halls of Eko Hotel & Suites in Victoria Island, Lagos featured an array of stars in attendance, including talk show host and CEO of Ebony TV, Ms. Mo Abudu, Editor of THISDAYStyle, Ms. Ruth Osime, Founder/President of Brilla FM, Larry Izamoje among other top celebrities drawn from across profession, industries and endeavours.
The boffins espoused the health, nutrition and other benefits derivable from moderate consumption of beer. Leading the presentation and setting tone for the interactive discourse was Professor Tola Atinmo, a Professor of Human Nutrition in the College of Medicine of the University of Ibadan and former President of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria.
Professor Atinmo whose paper, “Beer as Part of a Healthy Lifestyle” also set the theme and foundation for the symposium discourse, stated that there are numerous health benefits derivable from moderate consumption of the beverage adding that a healthy lifestyle is a desirable way of life, one which must focus more on preventive health rather than the curative.
“A healthy lifestyle is achieved through the following conditions: Healthy eating and drinking; adequate rest and stress management; physical and spiritual exercise; abstinence from smoking, hygiene and sanitation. Indeed, a healthy lifestyle is by choice and NOT by chance,” he said.
According to Prof. Atinmo, one of the greatest determinants of health is our consumption pattern i.e. what we eat and drink. “For the purpose of this presentation, the focus is on what we drink, especially as this relates to BEER consumption.
“The story of beer is not a new one but the positive side gets relatively untold. People are basically uninformed about the positive aspects in Nigeria, though the country has many breweries and there are millions of beer drinkers keeping them in business.”
Prof. Atinmo espoused that “There are at least two ways in which beer might impact beneficially on the body: First, through a direct physiological impact on bodily tissues and functions (which will be our focus); Second, through indirect impact, but founded equally on a physiological interaction,” he said.
He admits that it may sound odd when beer is mentioned as one of the healthy drinks, especially, from a renowned professional like him in the field of human nutrition! “However, this presentation is not about recommending beer as a healthy drink but it is about showcasing the associated nutrition and health benefits of beer from the perspectives of results from evidence-based scientific researches. This is about the review of the nutrients content of beer and the potentials of such nutrients in the promotion of a healthy lifestyle. To consider dispassionately the role of beer in the human diet, based on scientific evidence. To consider the impact that beer (as part of the spectrum of alcoholic beverages) has on health, especially these days when most people are conscious of, and concerned about the state of their well-being.
Ultimately, it is to provide evidence-based information on the health potentials of beer,” he said.
Among other things, the professor of human nutrition who was also at different times a member of the executive council of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences (IUNS) between 2001 and 2005 and foundation President of Federation of African Nutritional Societies in 2002 pointed out the human nutrients requirements and contribution from beer, energy value of nutrient content of beer, utilisation of energy from nutrient intake, health potentials of nutrients content of beer and other issues of health importance in beer consumption even as it cautions against uncontrolled beer consumption.
According to Prof. Atinmo, anyone blaming beer for causing lower abdominal obesity (also known as pot or ‘beer’ belly) should blame other attitudes in their lives than beer. “Moderate consumption of beer can be part of a healthy lifestyle. Beer has a relatively low calorie value compared to other alcoholic drinks. Moderate beer consumption does not lead to weight gain or abdominal fatness. The perception that drinking beer results in a ‘beer belly’ is not scientifically supported.
“Beers are generally a valuable source of polyphenols. The levels of antioxidants in beer are of the same order of magnitude as those found in fruit juices, teas and wines (Vinson et al. 1999; Gorinstein et al. 2000). Flavonoids in beer have potential value as chemo-protective agents (Horvathova et al. 2001).
“Polyphenols lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and other chronic diseases due to their antioxidant properties,” he said, adding “Polyphenols have beneficial effects on blood pressure, lipids, insulin resistance and inflammatory biomarkers.”
The professor of human nutrition explained further that beer, through its components, has preventive effects on lifestyle-related diseases – these are sicknesses caused by unsuitable dietary habits, lack of exercise and stress, e. g. type-2 diabetes, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, osteoporosis, gout and many types of cancers.
“Moderate alcohol consumption decreased fasting insulin and HbA1c concentrations. There is a lower risk of type 2 diabetes with moderate alcohol consumption due to improved insulin sensitivity or improved glycemic status… Isohumulones, the bitter substance derived from hops, may prevent and improve obesity and type-2 diabetes, improve lipid metabolism and suppress atherosclerosis.
Helps Bone and Healthy Ageing
“Moderate consumption of alcohol (beer) may be beneficial to bone in men and post-menopausal women. Silicon in beer strongly mediates the association of beer on positive higher bone mineral density (BMD),” he said.
Researches by Koletzko and Lehner (2000) also posit that moderate beer consumption may help in the initiation and success of breast-feeding. It seems that a component of beer, perhaps a barley polysaccharide, promotes prolactin secretion.
Moderate intake beer in the elderly has also been associated with significantly longer survival in men aged 60–74 years and in all elderly women (Simons et al. 2000). There is evidence that moderate alcohol consumption may be associated with better cognitive function in old age (Dufouil et al. 1997; Cervilla et al. 2000). Moderate consumption of wine and beer reduces the odds of developing age-induced macular degeneration (Obisesan et al. 1998) Light to moderate consumption of alcohol reduced the risk of those 65 and older from dying of cardiovascular disease (Scherr et al. 1992; see earlier). Low doses of alcohol, including beer, stimulate appetite and promote bowel function in the elderly (Dufour et al. 1992).
Natural Healthy Drink
The one-day knowledge-packed symposium availed consumers’ rights advocates, the media, consumers and the general public an exciting insight into the amazing benefits that can be derived from beer, an alcoholic beverage obtained by process fermentation of malted cereal grains mixed with purest of waters, hops and to brew a healthy and nutritious drink.
The experts who spoke at the symposium also include: Dr. Kathryn O’Sullivan, a Manchester, United-Kingdom-based Public Health Nutritionist and Consultant and Dr. Olu Malomo, Acting Head of Department of Food Technology and Associate Professor of Food Technology, Bells University, Ota, Ogun State were unanimous in describing beer as a healthy natural drink. According to Dr. Malomo, “Beer is obtained majorly from four basic ingredients, grains (barley, wheat, corn/maize, sorghum etc.), yeast, hops and water – all natural ingredients.
The boffins left out no details in global trends, especially health, nutrition, beliefs, production, agriculture, technology and general issues as it relates to the acclaimed oldest beverage drink in the world. The bottom-line of every presentation, empirical finding, research and studies presented focused on moderation in the consumption of the beverage, which is the centre point of the responsible drinking campaign of the brewing industry across the world.