Is beer a healthy choice? Consumers don’t think so.
Is beer a healthy choice? A new report released by the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) – entitled ‘A healthy perspective on beer?‘ – suggests it is. But it also shows that consumers do not realise.
The study analysed the calorific content of 52 separate alcoholic drinks, and found that the majority of beers sampled contained less than 1g of sugar per 100ml, with higher alcohol beers rising to 1.5g per 100ml. A low figure when compared with recent statistics showing the sugar content (per 100ml) of other popular beverages; coco-cola (10.6g), orange squash (7.8g) and a medium cappuccino (4.3g).
A new poll commissioned by the BBPA alongside the report also shows that despite being perceived by a majority as our national drink (57%) (with wine running a distant second at only 6% and whiskey picking up just 3% of the votes), members of the public misunderstand the nutritional content of beer. The majority of British adults (68%) mistakenly think that beer is high in sugar, 84% think it is high in calories and 85% think that it is fattening. Interestingly, women are more likely than men to think that beer is high in sugar (74% versus 61% of men). According to the BBPA, the facts are that beer has a very low sugar content especially when compared to other alcoholic drinks, is absolutely fat free and typically offers the lowest alcohol strength option.
The report is a follow-up to the 2010 review, ‘Beer, the natural choice?’ and aims to give an update – over five years on – on the latest body of scientific evidence surrounding the nutritional content of beer, when consumed in moderation as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Authored by health journalist, Isla Whitcroft, the report includes comment from experts in their field, in order to correct some of the common myths and misinformation about beer and provide an educational, informative and balanced perspective on what consumers herald as our national drink.
The new report covers a round-up of the medical evidence to support the nutritional and health benefits of beer around the body including the positive impact of moderate drinking on the heart, bone health, the brain, stomach, skin, hair, nails and hormones; the nutritional content of beer including a review of vitamins, minerals, calories and sugar; a closer look at scientific studies and data analysis to support the benefits of moderate alcohol intake; and the latest trends in brewing and beer drinking, including the social benefits of living near a pub, as well as the increase in cooking with beer.
Professor Ramon Estruch, senior consultant at the Internal Medicine Department of the Hospital Clinic (Barcelona) says, “Some ethnic groups with particular genetic characteristics, or those with certain health issues should not drink alcohol at all. However, overall our studies have led us to conclude that for most people drinking beer and wine in moderation is better for their overall mortality rate than not drinking at all. We believe that the phenols in beer have anti-inflammatory properties which could account for some of the health benefits.”
Also commenting on the nutritional content of beer in the report is UK nutritionist Fiona Hunter, who says, “Beer includes amongst other things silicon, magnesium, zinc and selenium. All these minerals are vital for our good health. If you accept that people are going to drink alcohol, then I would say that beer is a good choice. Beer is “ml for ml” low in alcohol compared to all other alcoholic drinks. It contains myriad useful vitamins and minerals and if taken responsibly and within moderate consumption guidelines, can make a positive contribution to our health.”
Brigid Simmons, chief executive of the BBPA adds, “In the five years since our last report there has been an increasing focus on, and interest in, the nutritional content of what we eat and drink. At the same time a whole new body of scientific research has been released which highlights the nutritional and health benefits of our great British drink when enjoyed in moderation. However, there is still a lot of work to be done to challenge many of the misconceptions around beer; not least, as our latest consumer poll shows, around sugar content and calorific values.”
The poll also shows that Britons are consuming beer in a variety of different ways, with one third of British adults (35%) saying they have drunk beer instead of wine with a meal, more than one in ten (14%) reporting that they have used beer as an ingredient in cooking and one in ten (10%) reporting they have chosen a low or non-alcoholic beer instead of a regular beer in the past six months. The report also highlights recent research by the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University which underlines why the pub is still part of the fabric of our community: the latest study finds that popping down to our local can make us happy and drinkers can find their friends on tap!