Beer and the Kidneys
A Finnish-U.S. study of beer-drinking, middle-aged men was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 1999. The report stated that an increase in beer consumption may reduce the risk of developing kidney stones. Results showed that there was a 40 percent lower risk of kidney stones in beer drinkers, but the researchers were stumped as to whether the results were due to water, alcohol or hops.
Alcohol and Stress
Perhaps popping off to the pub relieves stress.
At Leeds University in the United Kingdom, Dr. Colin Gill’s research showed that the welcoming atmosphere of the local pub helps men get rid of the stresses of modern life and is vital for their psychological well-being. Dr. Gill said that rather than complain, women should encourage men to pop out for a beer. “Pub-time allows men to bond with friends and colleagues,” he said. “Men need break-out time as much as women and are mentally healthier for it.”
Dr. Gill added that men might feel unfulfilled or empty if they had not been to the pub for a week. The report, commissioned by alcohol-free beer brand Kaliber, surveyed 900 men on their reasons for going to the pub. More than 40 percent said they went for conversation, with relaxation and a friendly atmosphere being the other most common reasons. Only 10 percent listed alcohol as their primary reason.
In Spain, an alcohol and stress study was conducted at Autonoma Universidad in Madrid. Published results showed that moderate drinkers feel better about their health than non-drinkers. In Spain’s 1993 National Health Survey of 20,000 adults “the results showed that people who drank alcohol, including beer and spirits, were less likely to report ill health than people who abstained altogether,” according the report published in the British Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. “Overall, the higher the consumption of total alcohol the lower the levels of subjective ill health.” Of the test subjects, 57 percent drank regularly, with the majority consuming one to two drinks a day. Those who drank regularly were less likely than those who didn’t to report “suboptimal” health.
How Much to Drink?
Quantity is the big question. How much should a person drink to benefit from the health effects of alcoholic drinks? The answer overwhelmingly given by all researchers and medical experts is to drink moderately. But, of course, the word “moderate” can be a bit vague.
At a conference on the effects of alcohol on health sponsored by the New York Academy of Sciences, Dr. Arthur L. Klatsky, a highly respected researcher on the epidemiology of alcohol, and Dr. Roger Ecker, a practicing physician, presented an “algorithm” for helping doctors advise patients on how much to drink. Their recommendations of moderate drinking for people who have coronary heart disease or two or more risk factors for it, are for one to three drinks a week for men between 21 and 39 years of age and women between 21 and 49. They further suggest that men 40 or older and women 50 or older consider adding moderate amounts of alcohol to their diets if they have heart disease or one or more risk factors for heart disease. Exceptions are made for pregnant women and recovering alcoholics and other preventive measures, such as stopping smoking, are also encouraged.
Dr. Harvey Finkel, Clinical Professor of Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, studies the effects of alcohol on the heart. Dr. Finkel says that men should drink one- to three-ounce servings of alcohol a day (a standard drink being approximately one-half ounce of alcohol), with three drinks being the maximum, and that women should drink half that amount. He claims the difference in quantity is not due to the average differences in body weight between men and women, but due to the difference in men’s and women’s stomachs’ ability to break down alcohol. Dr. Finkel goes on to say that four drinks a day does more harm than good and that death rates are higher for heavier drinkers than for abstainers.
The American Heart Association Dietary Guidelines also recommend moderation in drinking alcohol. Their definition of moderation is an average of one to two drinks a day for men and one for non-pregnant women. A drink is defined as either 12 ounces of regular beer, five ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits or one ounce of 100-proof spirits.
It is worth mentioning that on subjects ranging from the definition of “moderation” to the consumption of alcohol by pregnant or nursing women, US scientists tend to set lower limits than their European colleagues. There seems to be a suspicion in the American medical establishment that people will take any advice on the moderate consumption of alcohol as a license to abuse alcohol, which everyone agrees is bad for you.
Drink to Your Health
For many centuries and in many languages, we’ve raised our glasses to one another and toasted good health. Perhaps we realized subconsciously that our foam-topped mugs were packed with compounds that did us good; perhaps it was just wishful thinking.
Now, a century of observations, and two decades of hard-headed scientific examination have confirmed our best hopes: the beer that bring enjoyment, refreshment, and convivial times with friends can also contribute to a healthier life in which to enjoy those pleasures.
To your health!