The effects of beer intake on blood lipid balance, or cholesterol levels, were studied on Spanish men and women. The participants followed an initial abstinence phase and took calculated moderate quantities of beer in the study phase. The results showed a favorable effect of beer consumption on lipid profile. After one month of beer consumption, increase in levels of “good” cholesterol was noted in women, while greater red blood cell volumes were observed in both men and women. Diet patterns did not change throughout the study period.

There is sufficient evidence to support the cardio-protective effect of reasonable alcohol consumption. Most studies in this field have used wine. However, the specific type of alcoholic beverage and amounts of drink need to be standardized. Moderate alcohol consumption, as quantified in this study is 10-12 g/day for women and 20-24 g/day for men. Beer contains alcohol, carbohydrate source, fiber, minerals, trace elements, vitamins and polyphenols. These constituents can prevent oxidative stress, atherosclerosis and type 2 diabetes mellitus, and can control obesity, in addition to normalizing lipid profile. The study tested the variations in red blood cells, liver enzymes and lipid profiles from blood samples.

* Sixty healthy volunteers entered a wash-out period of one month, with strictly no alcoholic drinks. This was followed by one month of moderate beer intake with meals. The participants did not alter their lifestyle or diet.
* Blood samples were evaluated for blood lipid values, glucose, liver enzymes and red blood cell concentrations.
* Body height, weight and waist circumference measurements were taken and statistically analyzed for correlation.
* Higher values were recorded for total cholesterol and HDL-cholesterol levels in women, after beer consumption. The ratio of LDL-cholesterol/HDL-cholesterol dropped, after the one month intake period. The red blood cell count increased in women with one month of beer; however, the hemoglobin did not fluctuate.
* Glucose, total cholesterol levels, hepatic enzymes, BMI and waist measures did not vary with beer intake.
* There was a marked decrease in consumption of dairy products and an increase in pre-cooked foods in women, at the end of the one month period.

Next steps/Shortcomings
It is important to have a control group having alcohol-free drinks and extend the duration of the study. The menstrual cycle in women could have contributed to some variations. Further research is warranted to verify the contributions of other non-alcoholic components of beer. Other lifestyle factors could have interfered with the result.

People who do not drink are known to have lower HDL levels, thus indicating that beer increases the HDL-levels in blood. This is beneficial from the perspective of cardiovascular health.  As against popular belief, beer is not associated with an increase in body weight/Body Mass Index.  In this study, it was observed that beer did not impact regular diet patterns. The intake of dairy products was reduced in women; however, this was not linked to a drop in calcium inputs. Hence, we could conclude that one month of moderate beer consumption could result in better cardiac health in terms of positive changes in lipid profile.
For More Information:
Effects of Moderate Beer Consumption on Blood Lipid Profile in Healthy Spanish Adults
Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases, 2008
By Javier Romeo; Marcela Gonzalez-Gross; Instituto del Fri’o, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cienti´ficas, C/Jose´ Antonio Novais, Madrid, Spain.

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.