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Beer production began around 5,000 BC in the present-day region of Iraq and Egypt, where barley, still in its present form, grew in abundance.

Beer and health

Just about every crop has found a way to make beer with local grains:

  • Africans use sprouted corn, millet and sorghum
  • the Russians make a light beer with rye bread, which they call kvass
  • Chinese and Japanese use rice
  • Latin American Indians use maize

A medical study looked at the beer consumption of a group of people who had suffered a heart attack and that of a group randomly selected from the Czech population, the Czechs being heavy beer drinkers.

The results are astonishing: in both groups, the lowest risk occurred among those who consumed between 5 and 11 liters of beer per week.

It was three times less than that of men never drinking. Nevertheless, beyond this consumption, the protective effect was lost and problems arose.

The dark beer seems the most beneficial. It is believed to be able to reduce the toxicity of the famous amines that are sometimes found in foods cooked at high temperatures. It is therefore ideal to accompany the cooking on the barbecue !

The benefits of beer are due to polyphenols, antioxidant pigments also found in fruits, tea and wine . Research indicates that drinking one beer per day (33 cl) changes the structure of fibrinogen. This protein is responsible for blood clotting. A study of bypass patients reported that those who drank a beer a day were less prone to clots. So, less prone to heart attacks and strokes.

Nutritional value of beer

We tend to overestimate the virtues of beer. In fact, brewing makes it lose most of the nutritional qualities of the cereals used in its manufacture. A small bottle of beer brings 150 kcal, two thirds of which comes from alcohol and the other third from sugar, with barely a trace of protein. However, it is true that it provides 5 to 10% of the recommended dietary allowance (NCA) in folic acid, niacin, vitamin B, phosphorus and magnesium, as well as chromium and selenium.

To drink in moderation

Consumed in moderation, beer has the same recognized benefits as wine. Thus, numerous studies have verified that a moderate consumption of alcohol (20 to 30 g per day), whether from wine or beer, could be good for the health, because it allows to increase the content of “good” cholesterol (HDL) in the blood.

Beer has specific effects related to the barley-derived substances it contains: researchers at the University of Western Ontario have been able to show that it will stimulate the action of antioxidants in the body. But this applies only to a moderate consumption, of the order of a quarter to a third of a liter, or a can: the consumption of three cans has the opposite effect, making the blood pro-oxidant, which increases the cardiovascular risks.

It is often said that beer makes you fat: an effect that was not found in
“moderate” beer drinkers in the recent SU.VI.MAX study conducted in France, but which
appears for a higher consumption (from one liter per day), especially outside of meals. The latter also leads, of course, an increased risk of excessive alcohol , with all its misdeeds, both physical and psychic.

Brewing methods

Although artisanal methods still exist all over the world, modern brewing follows a perfectly controlled process that begins with malting, an operation aimed at converting cereal starch into sugar to produce fermentation. To this end, the cereal grains are sprouted to activate the enzymes that will convert the starch into sugar. Then germination is stopped, the shoots are removed and the grains are prepared for brewing. The malt is gently heated, so that the enzymes can continue to act on the starch to obtain a sweet liquid, the must. The grains of cereal are deposited at the bottom, the must is filtered.

Dried flowers of hops are then added, boiled and the liquid filtered. The wort is then left to collect the scum formed on the surface (these are proteins ). The liquid obtained is supplemented with a yeast which makes it ferment. After a new skimming, we obtain a limpid beer. Variations in the process and the possible addition of other ingredients explain the differences in flavor, color and aroma. The brewing method determines the nutritional properties.

  • English beer, called bitter, contains more hops;
  • The more concentrated blond beer (ale) uses
    a yeast that rises on the surface; brown beer (stout) , more bitter, is derived from a dark malt.
  • A German beer with a cloudy appearance, the Weissenbier , retains a good proportion of B vitamins by keeping the yeast, which is suppressed in other beers to lighten them.
  • Native African beers are unfiltered and therefore retain most nutrients from cereals, roots and stems used as basic ingredients.

It should be noted that the yeast contains two minerals that partially pass into the beer: chromium, involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates, and selenium, an antioxidant.

Dr. Kanika Singla

Ph.D., IARI Postdoctoral Scholar, UC Berkeley

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