Feb 19, 2014
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Nutritional Profile

Energy value (calories per serving): Low

Protein: Moderate

Fat: None

Saturated fat: None Cholesterol: None Carbohydrates: High Fiber: None

Sodium: Low

Major vitamin contribution:

B vitamins

Major mineral contribution: Phosphorus

About the Nutrients in This Food

Beer and ale are fermented beverages created by yeasts that convert the sugars in malted barley and grain to ethyl alcohol (a.k.a. “alcohol,” “drink- ing alcohol”).*

The USDA /Health and Human Services Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines one drink as 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, or

1.25 ounces of distilled spirits. One 12-ounce glass of beer has 140 calo- ries, 86 of them (61 percent) from alcohol. But the beverage—sometimes nicknamed “liquid bread”—is more than empty calories. Like wine, beer retains small amounts of some nutrients present in the food from which it was made.

* Because yeasts cannot digest t he starches in grains, t he grains to be used in mak ing beer and ale are allowed to germinate ( “malt” ). When it is t ime to make t he beer or ale, t he malted grain is soaked in water, forming a mash in which t he starches are split into simple sugars t hat can be digested (fermented) by t he yeasts. If undisturbed, t he fermentat ion will cont inue unt il all t he sugars have been digested, but it can be halted at any t ime simply by raising or lowering t he temperature of t he liquid. Beer sold in bott les or cans is pasteurized to k ill t he yeasts and stop t he fermentat ion. Draft beer is not pasteurized and must be refrigerated unt il tapped so t hat it will not cont inue to ferment in t he container. The longer t he shipping t ime, t he more likely it is t hat draft beer will be exposed to temperature variat ions t hat may affect its qualit y—which is why draft beer almost always tastes best when consumed near t he place where it was brewed.

The Nutrients in Beer (12-ounce glass)







Calcium 17 mg 1.7
Magnesium 28.51 mg 7–9*
Phosphorus 41.1 mg 6
Potassium 85.7 mg (na)
Zinc 0.06 mg 0.5– 0.8*
Thiamin 0.02 mg 1.6 –1.8*
R iboflavin 0.09 mg 7– 8*
Niacin 1.55 mg 10
Vitamin B6 0.17 mg 13
Folate 20.57 mcg 5


* t he first figure is t he %R DA for a man; t he second, for a woman

Source: USDA Nut rient Database: w w w.nal.usda.gov/fnic/cgi-bin /nut _search.pl.

Diets That May Restrict or Exclude This Food

Bland diet

Gluten-free diet

Low-purine (antigout) diet

Buying This Food

Look for: A popular brand that sells steadily and will be fresh when you buy it.

Avoid: Dusty or warm bottles and cans.

Storing This Food

Store beer in a cool place. Beer tastes best when consumed within two months of the day it is made. Since you cannot be certain how long it took to ship the beer to the store or how long it has been sitting on the grocery shelves, buy only as much beer as you plan to use within a week or two.

Protect bottled beer and open bottles or cans of beer from direct sunlight, which can change sulfur compounds in beer into isopentyl mercaptan, the smelly chemical that gives stale beer its characteristic unpleasant odor.

When You Are Ready to Serve This Food

Serve beer only in absolutely clean glasses or mugs. Even the slightest bit of grease on the side of the glass will kill the foam immediately. Wash beer glasses with detergent, not soap, and let them drain dry rather than drying them with a towel that might carry grease from your hands to the glass. If you like a long-lasting head on your beer, serve the brew in tall, tapering glasses to let the foam spread out and stabilize.

For full flavor, serve beer and ales cool but not ice-cold. Very low temperatures immo- bilize the molecules that give beer and ale their flavor and aroma.

What Happens When You Cook This Food

When beer is heated (in a stew or as a basting liquid), the alcohol evaporates but the flavor- ing agents remain intact. Alcohol, an acid, reacts with metal ions from an aluminum or iron pot to form dark compounds that discolor the pot or the dish you are cooking in. To prevent this, prepare dishes made with beer in glass or enameled pots.

Medical Uses and/or Benefits

Reduced risk of heart attack. Data from the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study 1, a 12-year survey of more than 1 million Americans in 25 states, shows that men who take one drink a day have a 21 percent lower risk of heart attack and a 22 percent lower risk of stroke than men who do not drink at all. Women who have up to one drink a day also reduce their risk of heart attack. Numerous later studies have confirmed these findings.

Lower risk of stroke. In January 1999, the results of a 677-person study published by researchers at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia University showed that moder- ate alcohol consumption reduces the risk of stroke due to a blood clot in the brain among older people (average age: 70). How the alcohol prevents stroke is still unknown, but it is clear that moderate use of alcohol is a key. Heavy drinkers (those who consume more than seven drinks a day) have a higher risk of stroke. People who once drank heavily, but cut their consumption to moderate levels, can also reduce their risk of stroke. Numerous later studies have confirmed these findings.

Lower cholesterol levels. Beverage alcohol decreases the body’s production and storage of low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), the protein and fat particles that carr y cholesterol into your arteries. As a result, people who drink moderately tend to have lower cholesterol levels and higher levels of high density lipoproteins (HDLs), the fat and protein particles that carr y cholesterol out of the body. The USDA /Health and Human Services Dietar y Guidelines for Americans defines moderation as two drinks a day for a man, one drink a day for a woman.

Stimulating the appetite. Alcoholic beverages stimulate the production of saliva and the gastric acids that cause the stomach contractions we call hunger pangs. Moderate amounts of alcoholic beverages, which may help stimulate appetite, are often prescribed for geriatric

patients, convalescents, and people who do not have ulcers or other chronic gastric problems that might be exacerbated by the alcohol.

Dilation of blood vessels. Alcohol dilates the capillaries (the tiny blood vessels just under the skin), and moderate amounts of alcoholic beverages produce a pleasant flush that temporar- ily warms the drinker. But drinking is not an effective way to warm up in cold weather since the warm blood that flows up to the capillaries will cool down on the surface of your skin and make you even colder when it circulates back into the center of your body. Then an alco- hol flush will make you perspire, so that you lose more heat. Excessive amounts of beverage alcohol may depress the mechanism that regulates body temperature.

Adverse Effects Associated with This Food

Increased risk of breast cancer. In 2008, scientists at the National Cancer Institute released data from a seven-year survey of more than 100,000 postmenopausal women showing that even moderate drinking (one to two drinks a day) may increase by 32 percent a woman’s risk of developing estrogen-receptor positive (ER+) and progesterone-receptor positive (PR+) breast cancer, tumors whose growth is stimulated by hormones. No such link was found between consuming alcohol and the risk of developing ER-/PR- tumors (not fueled by hor- mones). The finding applies to all types of alcohol: beer, wine, and spirits.

Increased risk of oral cancer (cancer of the mouth and throat). Numerous studies confirm the American Cancer Society’s warning that men and women who consume more than two drinks a day are at higher risk of oral cancer than are nondrinkers or people who drink less. Note: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans describes one drink as 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.

Increased risk of cancer of the colon and rectum. In the mid-1990s, studies at the University of Oklahoma suggested that men who drink more than five beers a day are at increased risk of rectal cancer. Later studies suggested that men and women who are heavy beer or spirits drinkers (but not those who are heavy wine drinkers) have a higher risk of colorectal cancers. Further studies are required to confirm these findings.

Fetal alcohol syndrome. Fetal alcohol syndrome is a specific pattern of birth defects—low birth weight, heart defects, facial malformations, and mental retardation—first recognized in a study of babies born to alcoholic women who consumed more than six drinks a day while pregnant. Subsequent research has found a consistent pattern of milder defects in babies born to women who consume three to four drinks a day or five drinks on any one occasion while pregnant. To date, there is no evidence of a consistent pattern of birth defects in babies born to women who consume less than one drink a day while pregnant, but two studies at Columbia University have suggested that as few as two drinks a week while preg- nant may raise a woman’s risk of miscarriage. (“One drink” means 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, or 1.25 ounces of distilled spirits.)

Alcoholism. Alcoholism is an addiction disease, the inability to control one’s alcohol consumption. It is a potentially life-threatening condition, with a higher risk of death by accident, suicide, malnutrition, or acute alcohol poisoning, a toxic reaction that kills by para- lyzing body organs, including the heart.

Malnutrition. While moderate alcohol consumption stimulates appetite, alcohol abuse depresses it. In addition, an alcoholic may drink instead of eating. When an alcoholic does eat, excess alcohol in his/her body prevents absorption of nutrients and reduces the ability to synthesize new tissue.

Hangover. Alcohol is absorbed from the stomach and small intestine and carried by the bloodstream to the liver, where it is oxidized to acetaldehyde by alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), the enzyme our bodies use to metabolize the alcohol we produce when we digest carbohydrates. The acetaldehyde is converted to acetyl coenzyme A and either eliminated from the body or used in the synthesis of cholesterol, fatty acids, and body tissues. Although individuals vary widely in their capacity to metabolize alcohol, on average, normal healthy adults can metabolize the alcohol in one quart of beer in approximately five to six hours. If they drink more than that, they will have more alcohol than the body’s natural supply of ADH can handle. The unmetabolized alcohol will pile up in the bloodstream, interfering with the liver’s metabolic functions. Since alcohol decreases the reabsorption of water from the kidneys and may inhibit the secretion of an antidiuretic hormone, they will begin to urinate copiously, losing magnesium, calcium, and zinc but retaining more irritating uric acid. The level of lactic acid in the body will increase, making them feel tired and out of sorts; their acid-base balance will be out of kilter; the blood vessels in their heads will swell and throb; and their stomachs, with linings irritated by the alcohol, will ache. The ultimate result is a “hangover” whose symptoms will disappear only when enough time has passed to allow their bodies to marshal the ADH needed to metabolize the extra alcohol in their blood.

Changes in body temperature. Alcohol dilates capillaries, tiny blood vessels just under the skin, producing a “flush” that temporarily warms the drinker. But drinking is not an effective way to stay warm in cold weather. Warm blood flowing up from the body core to the surface capillaries is quickly chilled, making you even colder when it circulates back into your organs. In addition, an alcohol flush triggers perspiration, further cooling your skin. Finally, very large amounts of alcohol may actually depress the mechanism that regulates body temperature.

Impotence. Excessive drinking decreases libido (sexual desire) and interferes with the ability to achieve or sustain an erection.

Beer belly. Data from a 1995, 12,000 person study at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill show that people who consume at least six beers a week have more rounded abdomens than people who do not drink beer. The question left to be answered is which came first: the tummy or the drinking.

Food/Drug Interactions

Acetaminophen (Tylenol, etc.). The FDA recommends that people who regularly have three or more drinks a day consult a doctor before using acetaminophen. The alcohol/acetamino- phen combination may cause liver failure.

Disulfiram (Antabuse). Taken with alcohol, disulfiram causes flushing, nausea, low blood pressure, faintness, respiratory problems, and confusion. The severity of the reaction gener- ally depends on how much alcohol you drink, how much disulfiram is in your body, and how long ago you took it. Disulfiram is used to help recovering alcoholics avoid alcohol. (If taken with alcohol, metronidazole [Flagyl], procarbazine [Matulane], quinacrine [Atabrine], chlorpropamide (Diabinase), and some species of mushrooms may produce a mild disulfi- ramlike reaction.)

Anticoagulants. Alcohol slows the body’s metabolism of anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as warfarin (Coumadin), intensif ying the effect of the drugs and increasing the risk of side effects such as spontaneous nosebleeds.

Antidepressants. Alcohol may increase the sedative effects of antidepressants. Drinking alcohol while you are taking a monoamine oxidase (M AO) inhibitor is especially hazard- ous. M AO inhibitors inactivate naturally occurring enzymes in your body that metabolize tyramine, a substance found in many fermented or aged foods. Tyramine constricts blood vessels and increases blood pressure. If you eat a food containing tyramine while you are taking an M AO inhibitor, you cannot effectively eliminate the tyramine from your body. The result may be a hypertensive crisis. Ordinarily, fermentation of beer and ale does not produce tyramine, but some patients have reported tyramine reactions after drinking some imported beers. Beer and ale are usually prohibited to those using M AO inhibitors.

Aspirin, ibuprofen, ketoprofen, naproxen, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Like alcohol, these analgesics irritate the lining of the stomach and may cause gastric bleeding. Combining the two intensifies the effect.

Insulin and oral hypoglycemics. Alcohol lowers blood sugar and interferes with the metabo- lism of oral antidiabetics; the combination may cause severe hypoglycemia.

Sedatives and other central nervous system depressants (tranquilizers, sleeping pills, antidepres- sants, sinus and cold remedies, analgesics, and medication for motion sickness). Alcohol inten- sifies sedation and, depending on the dose, may cause drowsiness, respiratory depression, coma, or death.

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