Guinness, Does a Body Good?

In honour of today being St. Patrick’s day (don’t you love how we have a holiday specifically devoted to inebriation?), I figured now is as good a time as any to talk about beer.

A few months ago I ran a story spotlighting some pros and cons of alcohol consumption

Beach Body or Beer Belly: Alcohol and Your Physique

For those of you who don’t want to read the entire piece, here are the Coles notes:

  • small amount of alcohol –> health promoting
  • red wine –> greatest cardiovascular benefits
  • distilled liquor –> best way to get buzzed for fewest calories
  • frequent alcohol consumption –> not conducive to building a great physique

 

Pretty straightforward really. Of course, there are many more considerations than just those I’ve listed above. One of the issues that seems to be most challenging for individuals looking to include the occasional drinks for “health” reasons is the commong refrain “but I don’t like drinking wine”.

If that’s the case and beer is really more your thing, then you might consider using St. Patrick’s day to indulge in a pint.

Guinness = Aspirin?

Although I strongly caution against taking Guinness’ slogan at face value (a pint of Guiness a day is a great way to pack on 5 lbs), darker beers do have some research backing their benefit in terms of reducing platelet aggregation… at least in dogs: Guinness Could Really be Good for You.

In humans, the research isn’t quite as convincing that dark beers (stouts) have markedly stronger health properties than lighter beers (lagers). However, the good news is that both types of beer do have some (and I repeat, some) health promoting properties.

Research done at The University of Western Ontario (Alcohol: Friend or Foe? Alcoholic Beverage Hormesis for Cataract and Atherosclerosis is Related to Plasma Antioxidant Activity) has shown that the potential health benefits of alcohol consumption are strongly related to the dose.

As we can see in the graph above, one drink of red wine, lager or stout all seem to positively contribute to plasma antioxidant activity. This is good. Unfortunately, 3 drinks of those same alcoholic beverages all show significant pro-oxidant activity… this is not good.

Strangely enough, 3 glasses of non-alcoholic stout were also problematic, which further underscores our still nascent knowledge about how food interacts with our bodies.

Bottom line, a pint of beer or glass of wine a day isn’t going to kill you and does appear to have a role in improving cardiovascular health. Then again, consuming copious amounts of vegetables and fruit, as well as sleeping 7-9 hours a night, practicing stress reduction techniques and exercising regularly have even greater benefits to cardiovascular health… but those don’t really jive with the spirit of St. Paddy’s day.

I’ll just point out once more that although one drink could be viewed as health promoting, anything more and you start to do more harm than good. Of course, I don’t think my public service announcement will┬áreally change anyone’s drinking plans for today… but I figured you should at least know ;)

Till next time, train hard and eat clean.

And P.S. – If you are drinking today, do the smart thing and get a DD or leave the keys at home and call a taxi. If you choose to drink in excess and damage your own health, that’s your business. But endangering the lives of others… not acceptable.

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