Ladies, Regular Beer May Be Bad for Your Skin

The next time you’re at a party drinking a light beer, tell your friends you are preventing psoriasis. A recent study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School found women’s risk of developing psoriasis, an autoimmune disease affecting the skin, to be associated with regular alcohol intake, specifically the intake of non-light beer.

According to the researchers, alcohol may trigger psoriasis through immunological mechanisms that produce excess skin cells called keratinocytes, and an abnormal inflammatory response that attacks healthy skin cells.  A possible explanation for the increased risk from non-light beer specifically is its higher starch content, often from barley, compared to light beer. Unlike beer, liquor’s starch is removed during distillation, and wine is fermented from grapes’ natural sugar rather than starch.  Since barley, the starch used in beer production, contains a protein called gluten, it is thought that perhaps this dietary protein may be responsible for the observed effects. Previous studies have suggested that a gluten-free diet may help ease the severity of psoriasis.

The study began with over 82,000 female registered nurses aged 25 to 42 who were part of the U.S. Nurses’ Health Study II. Of the participants, 2,430 reported having been diagnosed with psoriasis by their physician. These women were given a Psoriasis Screening Tool questionnaire designed by the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) to determine actual diagnoses. Of those with confirmed cases of psoriasis, the researchers followed 1,069 women over 14 years, reassessing their alcohol intakes (overall intake as well as the type of alcohol consumed) every 4 years.

Results showed no difference in age between alcohol drinkers and nondrinkers, though drinkers were more likely to smoke. After adjusting for age, BMI, and smoking, women who consumed more that 2.3 drinks per week had a greater risk for developing psoriasis than women who consumed less than 2.3 drinks per week. The researchers found that the greater the alcohol intake, the greater the risk of developing psoriasis. However, when the researchers delved deeper into the data, they found that only women who drank 5 or more non-light beers per week had an elevated risk (2.3 times greater) of having psoriasis. Researchers also found women who drank light beer, white or red wine, or beer did not have any increased risk.

Although the researchers agree further studies are warranted, their results do show a clearly increased risk for psoriasis for women who drink regularly, especially those who drink non-light beer. The study reinforces good advice for anyone, not only for women: if you choose to drink, enjoy it in moderation.

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