Showing posts with label health. Show all posts
Showing posts with label health. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Will judging homebew lagers will give me throat cancer?

I admit that title was a tad shocking but I need to attract readership. It works for the newspapers, so I figured it would work for me. This title seems scary at first, "Short-term salivary acetaldehyde increase due to direct exposure to alcoholic beverages as an additional cancer risk factor beyond ethanol metabolism." One of the major off favours in beer is acetaldehyde, so we know it is present in some of the beers we drink. We also know that there tends to be more acetaldehyde present in lagers. Anyone who has judged a lager category has gotten a mouthful of green apple. Acetaldehyde is a known risk factor for cancer. This compound in beer as associated with DNA damage and impaired DNA repair. So will drinking beer put you at risk of cancer? The answer is yes, but it is not as bad as you think.

In this study, students were given various alcoholic beverages to sample. These were sampled via the wine tasting method, swish, hold and spit. The beverages ranged from beer, vodka, wine to grape marc spirit. Oddly beer contained the lowest amount of acetaldehyde of all beverages except for vodka. I'm not sure what grape marc spirit is but I plan to avoid that crap, it contained the most acetaldehyde by far.

Acetaldehyde is formed in the body by liver metabolism and mouth or colonic bacteria. This was news to me. It also explains why poor dental hygiene is associated with higher risks of certain forms of stomach cancer. Back to our beverage spitting, cancer developing subjects. After the swish and spit, levels of acetaldehyde were measured in the saliva over the next 10 minutes. This method would allow bacteria present in the mouth produce acetaldehyde.

Acetaldehyde levels rose and faded over 10 minutes of saliva sampling. As predicted, initial acetaldehyde levels in beverages we responsible for the first 30 seconds of exposure. After that, it was due to the bacterial modification of alcohol content. This was evident when comparing grape marc spirit and vodka. Levels of acetaldehyde of vodka are unmeasureable where as levels in grape marc were 15851 uM. For comparison beer only contained 210 uM. The makes sense, in beer acetaldehyde is considered to be a flaw and avoided. After ten minutes acetaldehyde saliva levels of those who sampled beer were undetectable while vodka and grape merc levels of acetaldehyde were similar. So what does this mean for beer drinkers? Beer drinking is a risk factor for cancer, but not as much as spirits due to beer's lower alcohol content.  Even in bad lagers where green apple is noticeable, their acetaldehyde levels would be lower than grape merc spirit or cider. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Can Science Help You Learn to be a Beer Pro?

I could not say "no" to reading this article,"Becoming a beer expert: Is simple exposure with feedback sufficient to learn beer categories?" This study seemed simple on the surface but had a lot of depth to it. It was especially interesting for anyone wishing to further their beer knowledge and obtain their Cicerone or BJCP Judge designations. The principle of the study seemed simple enough. A group of students were put through a 70 hour long beer sensory course. During this course, students were presented with either top-fermented beers (TF) or bottom-fermented beers (BF) and asked to determine which was which. No names or images were shown, just a bunch of randomly appearing clear plastic cups. Rather like a BJCP judging contest. Many of the same TF and BF beers were repeated during each session while new beers in each category were introduced. As expected, after repeated exposure to the same beer, subjects recognized that same beer and could correctly identify it as either at TF or BF. However, subjects did not always answer correctly for the new beers they had not been previously exposed to. Then subjects were introduced to a trap beer. This trap was a TF beer that shared many sensory traits as a BF beer. A similar BF trap beer was also given. In case you were curious, the BF trap beer was Biere du Demon and the TF trap beer was Hoegaarden. Not surprisingly, not enough subjects correctly identified the trap beers compared to just guessing.

So what did this tell us about learning to be a beer pro? Not much that we didn't already know. You can identify beers that you are repeatedly exposed to, but might not be able to extend this knowledge to new beers. What was interesting and helpful was that it did explain how people learn about new experiences and remember them for latter. Many of these principles apply to learning beer styles. Much of this information was taken from learning about wine experts. Generally when we learn about something sensory we try to place it into a category (categorization). We can do this in several methods, all with their pluses and faults. In this perceptual learning model, you learn to extract repeated stimulus and detect regularities. Sounds good right? Not so much, it expects you to pull  sensory information from many different encounters. What if you only drink Fat Tug? Is so, then you think every single IPA should taste like Fat Tug. This is also why people only drink one kind of beer and nothing else. Your experience has told you that beer should taste this way, any deviation from this norm is rejected as incorrect.

So your drink a beer, learn those flavours and place these memories into categories. This is how you can pick out Pacific Northwest hops from European hops or Southern Hemisphere hops. With repeated training, many beer geeks can pick out specific hop varieties, malts used and yeast strains. This is done in several ways. The first is to use these sensory memories to create mental prototypes. In this method you create an ideal taste representation from presented examples in each category. This is what is done with BJCP beer training. Your learn about how an IPA, English mild or Saison by drinking the best known examples. You know what a Saison tastes like by drinking Dupont, Ommegang Hennepin and New Belgium Saison. Again this presents problems as mentioned above. If you can't find these beers, you have no idea what a proper Saison should taste like. I find this to be an issue with the Kolsch. Very few people, including brewers, may have never tasted a true Kolsch. This is a problem when you are presented with a can of local kolsch-like ale and assume this is what a true Kolsch tastes like. I refer to this as the Analogue Phenomenon.

You also learn about beers from the feature-frequency theory. This is as it sounds, you build your models based on frequently occurring features of a recurring taste. IPAs frequently taste bitter, bocks are frequently sweet. This is quite handy for judging beer contests, but not much else. If a bock is excessively bitter, this is wrong. This again assumes you have lots of examples to draw from.

Another method is exemplar memorization. This again is just like it sounds, you memorized what a classic example tastes like. Possible issues in this method are that memories are fading and over time you might have forgotten what Saison Dupont tasted like. Perhaps your feature frequency from local saisons has caused the exemplar model to drift. To remedy this one should regularly sample the reference beer. Big breweries do this all the time, you regularly sample to same beer over and over for changes in flavour. I like the idea of drinking Saison Dupont every six months for research purposes. However, the typical beer geek, like me, rarely drinks the same beer twice so this form of learning is challenging. 

So back to our beer students. What did thus study teach us about learning about beer. After questioning the students, the researchers found that there was no specific form of learning that was favoured. The results did seem to slightly favour the exemplar theory of learning as students to easily identify beers that they were repeatedly exposed to. However, the information from memorizing these flavours could not be extrapolated to new identifying new beer flavours. Researchers also felt that perhaps the sample size of beers was too small; this is perfect validation for my Untappd score. So to learn more about beer, sample lots of different beers while looking for trends and analyze great beer style examples. Oh and drink Saison Dupont often.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Beer Flavour make you want to drink more

It is not often that I read scientific journals. But when I do, it is the latest issue of Neuropsychopharmacology. I thought this was a very unfair study, it targeted two associated things: men and drinking beer. Of course there will be an association. Now I am again rambling, let's hear the science.
We drink beer for two reasons, or three if you have Untappd. The first reason is for the delicious flavours. The second is to trigger dopamine release from the striatum part of your brain. For those of you, like me, who slept through this class in school, dopamine is the classic reward neurotransmitter.  Nicotine, cocaine and alcohol all have positive effects on the dopamine systems of the brain. You drink beer, alcohol causes release of dopamine and you feel good. Sounds right to me. That and a social media badge and life is good.
Researchers at the University of Indiana set out to determine if just the flavour of beer could illicit a dopamine response without the alcohol component. On a side note, I think there are way more breweries in BC than Indiana. Indiana has about 20, BC about a whole lot more.
Anyways, a bunch of right handed beer drinkers were hooked up to a fancy brain scan machine that could monitor dopamine activity in their striatum. Why right handed? Left handed people tend to respond to brain studies differently. But this is another article. Back on topic, these poor subjects were hooked up to yet another machine that sprayed stuff directly on their tongues. Oddly when water or Gatoraid was sprayed on the tongue, no dopamine release was noticed. However, when beer was sprayed on the tongue, or tasted, there was a noticeable dopamine release. Also of interest was that if there was a familiar risk of alcoholism, the dopamine release was increased.
This study concluded that reward is a conditioned response that can be triggered by flavours and not the pharmacological effects of alcohol. Just tasting beer makes us want to drink more. Also if you have a genetic or family risk of alcoholism, your dopamine release is heightened. They should add another wing to this study to see if dopamine release is further enhanced when a new badge is gained on Untappd.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Can Beer Help with Post Exercise Rehydration?


Perhaps I should elaborate or this will be a very short article. Researchers at the Griffith University in Queensland, Australia (where else), set out to answer this very question. Beer is apparently a very popular post exercise beverage, just as Olympic Gold Medalist Jon Montgomery. Could low alcohol beer with added sodium be an effective rehydration beverage? Actually, this is the second time these same researchers tried this stunt. Again, their old friend XXXX light (2.3%ABV) and XXXX Gold (3.5%ABV) got a dose of sodium and was served to some lucky, dehydrated university students. These poor students were stuck in heavy tract suits until they lost 2% of their body weight from sweating. Then they were given salty, low alcohol beer in approximate volumes to replace the fluid lost from exercise. Apparently the average fluid lost was about 2 litres, yuck.
After this torment, the researchers learned that beer was not an effective rehydration beverage. Even though the saltiest light beer (2.3%ABV with 50 mmol/L sodium) was the most effective, it was also the least palatable. By comparison Gatorade contains about 20 mmol/L of sodium, so this beer was quite salty. I shall continue to sit on my couch and rehydrate with a nice Gose.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Caffeinated Beer and Hangovers

Science is wonderful! This gem was presented at the Alcohol Hangover Research Group annual
meeting in 2012. In this study a handful of 21-30 year olds were paid $150 bucks to drink either beer or caffeinated beer, then their hangover score was determined in the morning. Apparently between 3-17% of students believe caffeinated prevent hangovers. I guess a slap to the back of the head is not scientific reasoning. So these lucky kids were given Hurricane High Gravity, with or without a whack of caffeine, until their blood alcohol hit 0.12 g% BrAC. In other words, nicely liquored on the cheap. DISCLOSURE: I have drank Hurricane before, but not in this quantity. My drinking buddies have this inside joke about drinking cheap gas station beer; but that is another story. So the result after waking up has no surprise. Over 60% of these lucky kids had hangovers. Shocking. Caffeine also had no affect on hangover severity. Despite the caffeinated beer delivering about 383mg caffeine, sleep onset and duration was not affected. Although these wired kids thought they slept better and were more alert in the morning. The researchers felt this study dispelled the misinformation that caffeinated alcoholic beverages prevented hangovers. I could have done the same with a bullhorn and a case of Redbull.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Drinking beer helps men at high risk of heart disease

I admit the title is a bit of a stretch, but I needed to hook you in somehow. The title should read, "Polyphenols in beer reduce atherosclerotic biomarkers in high cardiovascular risk men." The previous title is less likely to cause drowsiness. A study in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases gave 36 older men free beer, alcohol free beer or gin. It is known that polyphenols and alcohol in fermented
beverages reduce the risk of heart disease. This study intended to determine what parts helped what.
Atherosclerosis is a low grade, inflammatory disease that leads to plaque build up in arteries. These lucky guys were given a daily dose of either beer (660ml with 30gm ethanol and 1209mg polyphenols), alcohol free beer (similar polyphenol count) or gin (30gm ethanol and no polyphenols). After four weeks, these guys 'donated' a crap tonne of blood and all sorts of cardiovascular disease biomarkers were measured.
What the researchers found was that the polyphenols and alcohol affected their health in different ways. The
alcoholic beer and gin increased good HDL cholesterol and reduced fibrinogen (blood clotting factor), but the alcohol free beer did not. Yay booze. Only the alcohol free beer increased folic acid and lowered homocysteine (heart disease risk marker). Yay vitamins, boo booze. Systolic blood pressure also decreased with alcohol free beer. Yay polyphenols, boo alcohol. Both beer and alcohol free beer reduced leukocyte expression of adhesion molecules (trust me this stuff is bad news). Yay polyphenols.
So what does this mean for beer drinkers? Drink dark beer (rich in polyphenols) with ample hops (flavonoids) and low in alcohol. Can you say stouts or session strength Cascadian dark ale? Hope I don't get sued for that.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

It's official, beer drinkers eat a lot of junk food. We tried to hide it behind the mountain of carrots and apples, but science has found us out. This is according to an article in the September 2013 edition of the European Journal of Preventing Cardiology. This issue was way better than the August edition. Researchers in France tracked the spending habits of shoppers at the supermarket chain Casino. Ever wonder what happens to your loyalty points data? It could be used for science. After sorting through almost 200,000 till receipts, they found some interesting facts:
  • Moderate alcohol drinkers display more favourable socioeconomic status.
  • 71% of French shoppers drank wine, compared to 14% who drank beer.
  • Whisky drinkers spent the most of their food budget on alcohol (10.1%) compared to beer drinkers (4.9%). Beer drinkers spent the lowest.
  • Wine buyers bought more healthy foods than anyone else. Especially those that bought Bordeaux. Yes, the researchers split the variety of wine purchases into different categories; it was France after all.
  • Beer drinkers bought the lowest amounts of healthy foods.
  • Sadly, people overall spend more on unhealthy foods than healthy foods.
Healthy foods included tea, margarine, fish, fruits, veggies, white meat and low-fat dairy products. Unhealthy foods were described as processed, added sugar, cheese, salt, butter, biscuits and high-fat dairy. The French Paradox of health was thought to be due to the consumption of red wine. This article casts doubt on this fact as healthy food choices were different with those who drink wine. I have a few complaints about this article. The craft beer movement is a little lagging in France. Would this data be comparable to grocery till receipts obtained from Whole Foods, Safeway or Haggens? To make matters worse, beer drinkers also spent the most on soft drinks compared to other shoppers. This is not surprising, soda pop is similar in flavour to Bud and Kronenbourg 1664.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Arsenic and Old Ale

The beer you are currently drinking might contain arsenic. Try not to worry about it, as your tap water probably does also. Arsenic is a naturally occurring mineral found in the soil. In many cases, it is in such low concentrations that it will not cause any health concerns. Even the Victoria Water Department tested for arsenic but didn't find any in our water supply. But some researchers were curious as to why some German beers contained higher amounts of arsenic than commonly found in water. In some beers, the amount of arsenic was higher than the 10 micrograms per litre limit set by the World Health Organization. It was determined that the arsenic was introduced during the filtering of beer. Many German breweries use a product called kieselguhr, or diatomaceous earth. This product was found to be a significant source of arsenic.
So what does this mean to craft beer lovers? Did mostly local, unfiltered beer. A simple and tasty solution. In an unrelated story, some people have mentioned that I look remarkably similar to Cary Grant.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How often you drink can make you fat

Obesity is an occupational hazard for beer geeks. Alcoholic beverages do add extra calories to one's diet, but studies concerning alcohol drinking and obesity have shown mixed results. In the January 2013, edition of Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism there is good news for beer drinkers. It appears that drinking frequency was inversely related to body mass index and waist circumference. In other words, if you drank daily you were less likely to be fat. Except if you were a heavy drinker, then you are still likely to pack on the pounds. This data was obtained from a dietary questionnaire of almost 8000 French men. Results were the same for both beer and wine drinkers. The researchers had a few ideas about their findings. Daily intake of alcohol might increase metabolism and reduce food absorption. Another idea was that binge drinking is linked with binge eating. Occasional drinking is associated with social events and we often eat too much at these events.

What does this mean for craft beer lovers? Don't binge drink at social events in France and you will stay skinny.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Does Beer Cause Metabolic Syndrome?

Metabolic syndrome is a group of health problems that raise your risk of developing all sorts of diseases, such as heart disease, stoke and diabetes. A few years ago metabolic syndrome (MS) was called syndrome X; I think the new name is much more inviting. If you box a trifecta in this horse race, things don't end well. For those who don't bet the ponies, this means if you have three of these risk factors your chances of developing health problems increases significantly.There are five metabolic risk factors associated with MS: abdominal obesity, high triglycerides, low HDL (good) cholesterol, high blood pressure and high fasting blood sugar.

So what does this have to do with beer? Researchers at the University of Navarra, Spain, looked into whether beer can increase your risk of developing MS. The researchers studied the diets of approximately 8000 graduates over 8 years. They were looking to see if beer, wine or spirits consumption contributed to the development of MS. What they found was that people who drank more than 7 drinks a week had a greater risk of developing MS than abstainers. A drink was considered to be 330ml of beer. Beer or spirit drinkers were at greater risk of developing MS than wine drinkers. Also, people who drank more on the weekends (a.k.a. binge drinkers) had a greater risk than those that drank less that 5 drinks on the weekend. If you drank more than 7 drinks a week, your chances of developing high blood pressure rose by 19%, high triglycerides by 107% and high fasting glucose by 54%. On the bright side, heavy beer consumption did raise your HDL (good) cholesterol. Abdominal obesity didn't really change for the 7 down club.

The researchers noticed a trend with beer and spirit drinkers. Beer and spirits were associated with after-hours binges. It was also noted that the highest alcohol drinkers were more likely to be men, older, more physically active, smoke more and drink more sugar-sweetened soft beverages. Dang! This sounds like me, except for the smoking part.

So what does this mean for craft beer drinkers? The first is don't drink beer in Spain. Next is to keep consumption in moderation and don't go crazy on the weekends. For that safety of everyone, please keep your shirt on.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Salty beer helps with post-exercise fluid loss

Science never ceases to amaze. Researchers at Griffith University, Queensland, Australia, tested the effects of beer as a post exercise fluid replacement drink. You might know another popular fluid them exercise until they lost about 2% of their body weight through sweat. On four separate occasions these students drank either low alcohol beer (2.3%ABV), regular beer (4.8%ABV) or these same beers with added salt. Each student drank about two liters of beer post exercise. The beers used were XXXX light (2.3%) and XXXX Bitter (4.8%); both beers have stellar reviews on ratebeer. What they found was that the light beer with salt was the best at helping to replace lost fluids. Conversely the regular, unsalted, beer lead to further fluid loss. But sadly, all beverages failed to adequately restore lost fluid after exercise.
replacement drink: Gatoraid. These university funded scientists found seven lucky students and made
The big question is why study this salty beer/exercise thing anyways? According to the researcher's introduction, "athletes have consumed beer as part of their post-match celebration or decades." Furthermore, "despite beer commonly being consumed in large volumes after exercise, there is little known of its capacity to replace fluid lost during exercise." So there you have it. After a long bike ride reach for a Gose and not a stout.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Alcohol consumption reduces risk Grave's disease

For some reasons this study caught my eye (pun intended) . Apparently regular and moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages reduces the risk of developing Grave's Disease. This is an autoimmune disorder that leads to an overactive thyroid. It is rarely life threatening but can cause symptoms of anxiety, irritability, sleeping problems and exophthalmos (bulging eyes). The type of beverage did not matter (beer vs. wine) nor was age or gender a factor. Maximum risk reduction was found in people who drank more that 3 units of alcohol per day. Depending upon who's math you use, that works out to drinking just over one 5%ABV pint a day. So Prost! For your health and make your thyroid happy.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Does beer consumption lead to obesity

This is the eternal question, "Is the beer belly a myth?" The answer is not clear. Recently, researchers at the University of Copenhagen tried to answer this question. They conducted a review of all scientific literature concerning abdominal and general obesity and beer consumption. Their findings were mixed. French women who drank beer had a bigger waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), while this
occurred in German in Czech men only. Overall, there was no conclusive correlation between beer drinking and obesity. It appears that volume and frequency of beer consumption appear to play a role in weight gain. Men who drank more than 4 litres per week tended to have more abdominal obesity. Drinking frequency also played a role in obesity. They found that frequency of drinking was inversely related to weight gain. This means that binge drinkers were more likely to be overweight than those that consumed the same amount of alcohol daily. There was little evidence than moderate beer consumption, less than 500ml/day, caused beer bellies.
The researchers has a couple of thoughts about why beer drinking might be associated with weight gain. Firstly, in some populations beer drinkers have poorer diets than other beverage drinkers. In the US population, drinking beer was associated with higher energy intakes and reduced intake of fruits and veggies. This was in comparison to wine drinkers.
Secondly, beer drinking is associated with smoking. Something else that has been associated with weight gain. The association with exercise and beer drinkers was mixed. Beer intake was greater in college athletes than lazy students. 
So there you have it: science says you will not get fat by drinking a daily pint. Just don't smoke, stay away from the chicken wings and get some exercise.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Beer Drinking Enhances Antioxidants in Breast Milk

I fully endorse anything to improve the health of future generations of craft beer drinkers. As I have mentioned before, beer is an excellent source of antioxidants. So this small study applied this fact to a real world situation: boobs! A group of thirty breastfeeding mothers drank 660ml of non-alcoholic beer a day. After thirty days, their breastmilk was tested for oxidative status. Good news, at the end of the study the amount of antioxidants in breast milk increased compared to another group of mothers that didn't drink beer. The amount of coenzyme Q10 (a strong antioxidant) also increased in the beer drinking group.
The blood of the beer drinking mothers was also tested. It was found that they had more antioxidants in their blood and lower levels of markers that would indicate DNA damage due to oxidation. However, there was no difference in oxidant markers in the infant's urine from either group.
More evidence to support my idea of building a breast pump with a hopback - true story.

Other Beer and Health Articles

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Beer and Wine Can Help Heart Disease and Cancer

Well, this is a great news. Beer can help fight heart disease and cancer. According to an article in the online journal Nutrients, beer can do just that. Wine has better evidence for disease prevention when compared to beer. Most likely due to its higher concentration of antioxidants (polyphenols). About 30% of the antioxidants in beer come from hops while the other 70-80% come from the malts. This is another good reason to drink darker beer: more antioxidants.

There are multiple ways that moderate alcohol consumption can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Moderate imbibing can act as a mild anti-coagulant (blood thinner), increase good cholesterol (HDL), and increase your body's sensitivity to insulin (reduce risk of diabetes). This blood thinning effect of alcohol is interesting. In one study, moderate alcohol intake with dinner was able to thin the blood throughout the night. This is thought to be responsible for reducing the risk of early morning cardiovascular events (heart attacks and strokes).

The evidence associated with alcohol consumption and cancer is complicated. The World Health Organization considers ethanol to be carcinogenic (cancer causing). However there is evidence to suggest that beer (and wine) can help to prevent certain types of cancer. Xanthohumol is the most studied compound in hops that can help prevent cancer. It acts as an antioxidant, promotes formation of enzymes responsible for detoxifying carcinogens and can prevent the early growth of cancerous tumors. So far, this cancer fighting evidence has only happened in a laboratory petri dish. Melanoids in beer, amino acid and sugar combinations formed during the Maillard reaction, are thought to be anticancer, antibacterial and can help promote growth of healthy intestinal bacteria. The authors mention one Canadian study that demonstrated moderate protection from prostate cancer in men who drank beer.

There is much more research to be done. Beer and wine are rich with various antioxidants and cancer fighting compounds. However, which one of these compounds is responsible? Do they work synergistically (better together)? This is complicated by the fact that many of these compounds are not well absorbed by the stomach. I personally vow to dedicated by body to (non-invasive) science and drink a lot of craft beer. This is purely for the benefit of future generations.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Beer Allergy?? Maybe it is the Adjuncts.

At first, one might think this is a sad story. Can someone actually be allergic to beer? Luckily, it has a happy ending. This tale of woe, comes to us from the journal Allergy. A sad man reported shortness of breath and skin rashes after drinking beer. At first, it sounds like an allergy to everyone's favourite fermented beverage. A man's dreams of Oktoberfest debauchery might evaporate like the Angel's share. Luckily a team of researchers at the Allergy Unit of the Faenza Hospital, in Italy took pity on this man and went all CSI on his immune system. Allergies to cereal products (i.e. beer) might be due to a nonspecific lipid transfer protein (LTP). With the vast variety of cereals used to make beer, the researchers proposed that only one kind of cereal might contain a LTP responsible for this allergy. This brave - allergic - soul was subject to a vast number of reaction inducing skin puncture tests. His skin was violated with all sorts of beer related allergens and 36 different commercial beer samples. The list of beers used was extensive, and included: Duvel, Chimay, Leffe, Bud, Franziskaner and Judas. Oddly he was not allergic to yeast, hops, rice, barley, wheat nor six styles of beer. However an allergy to maize extract was noted. Maize grits are a common flavour adjunct used in certain beer styles. The patient said that he had no issues with eating polenta and pop corn. The researchers speculated that brewing the maize, it's interaction with hops and alcohol might cause it to become an allergen.
What about the good news? The subject was permitted to drink the six, non allergic beers at home. He did not report any further reactions. Five of these beers were lame Euro lagers but the sixth has Hoegaarden. The researchers ended their report by stating that an extensive diagnostic workup can, "certainly improve the quality of life of the allergic patient." This is good science! Beer drinking certainly improves my quality of life.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Non-Alcoholic Beer Helps With Sleep

New research in the online journal, PLoS ONE, confirms what beer drinkers have known for years: drinking beer can help you sleep. In the July 2012 edition, female nurses were given non-alcoholic beer to determine if it helped them sleep better. In case you were wondering, the beer was San Miguel 0.0%. One group of nurses were given a bottle to drink in the evening after a stressful shift, while another group got nothing. After only two weeks, the nurses who drank the near-beer experienced a better quality of sleep than the other group. The total length of sleep did not change. However, sleep latency (the time needed to fall asleep) was reduced in the beer group.
This improved sleep had other measurable benefits. Improved sleep also reduced the level of anxiety experienced by nurses in the beer group compared to their abstaining counterparts. The reasons for this improved sleep was not clear. However, it is known that hops can increase the activity of the brain chemical GABA (Gamma-AminoButyric Acid). GABA tends to have a sedative effect in people. Another suggestion is that a chemical in hops (2-methyl-3-buten-ol) can act like a narcotic. Hops might also affect serotonin and help melatonin work. Both of these brain chemicals help people sleep.
The researchers suggested that increasing the hop content could lead to a greater sedative action. I don't think San Miguel is the hoppiest beer out there. Sadly, drinking a double IPA might not help you count more sheep. This exponentially greater hop intake is also paired with more alcohol. Alcohol can sometimes interfere with a good nights rest.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Does Beer Actually Make You Smarter?

I'm sure you have heard about this new study that says drinking beer makes you smarter. If you actually read the article it tells a slightly different story. Researchers in the Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago, recruited 40 guys from Craiglist and got half of them drunk while watching the Disney movie Ratatouille. Subjects were given vodka (Smirnoff) and cranberry juice at a dose of 0.88g/kg of body weight. To put this in perspective: I'm a big guy at 106kg. This would put my dose at 93 grams of alcohol, or almost an entire six pack of 6.5%ABV Switchback IPA! All this booze was consumed in 10 minutes. This was supposed to make you smart? I doubt I could talk after this.

Boozy and sober subjects were asked a series of questions that used more creative thinking, rather that analytical problems. The creative test used was the Remote Associates Test (RAT). RAT is thought to be a more creative test which challenges subjects to find proper word pairs. You are given three words (Peach, Arm and Tar) and must find a fourth word that will pair with them. In this case, the best answer would be 'Pit'. These question were given in a rapid succession with limited time to solve them. The results were striking: drunk people solved 40% more problems than sober people. They also solved them quicker. It took the imbibers 12 seconds as opposed to the teetotalers with 15.5 seconds.

How is this possible? There is the popular belief that substance abuse can lead to creative thinking. Many great artists were perpetually whacked: Hemingway (booze), Coleridge (opium) and Hunter S. Thompson (uummm, everything). There are a few theories about how this can be possible. Working Memory Capacity (WMC) in the brain is associated with the ability to concentrate and solve analytical problems. Think of this as left brain (logical) function. This WMC is useful for certain tasks but might be detrimental for the creative process. Creative processes often requires divergent or discontinuous thinking. The authors of this study surmised that intoxication lead to a less focused mind (suppressed WMC) and a more diffuse attention state. In other words, your logical left brain takes a break while your creative/intuitive right brain takes over. Seems logical, however after a few it may seem like a creative solution.

I also wondered why the animated movie Ratatouille was chosen. Do animated mice have a neutral effect on cognitive function. Dr. Jennifer Wiley, one of the authors of the study, said, "we actually used it because the other alcohol lab in our department used it and we were just trying to keep the procedure as similar to the "standard" as possible." Perhaps it was a better choice than Fantasia

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Alcohol Consumption, Beer and Women Surviving a Heart Attack

I never miss an issue of the American Journal of Cardiology. This title caught my eye, "Alcohol consumption patterns, beverage type, and long-term mortality among women survivors of acute myocardial infarction." Researchers at Harvard Medical School sifted through the records of women who survived a heart attack and asked about their drinking habits. Luckily they found good news: moderate consumption of alcohol decrease mortality after a heart attack. It did not matter what you drank (wine, beer to spirits), you still lived longer. There was one odd finding, women that reported binge drinking tended to be far healthier compared to other pattern drinkers. This is in sharp contrast to men. One study found that binge drinking men had a two-fold risk of dying after a heart attack compared to moderate drinkers. The reasons for this are not clear. One theory is that women have lower amounts of alcohol dehydrogenase in their stomachs; this allows longer exposure to the effects of alcohol. Alcohol dehydrogenase is responsible for the breakdown of alcohol in the body.  Don't take this as validation that benders are OK, the amount of binge drinking women in the study were low. The low number of binge drinkers might not make the findings valid. As found in most other alcohol consumption studies, women that drank the most tended to be: younger, have a higher socioeconomic status, more physically active and more edumacated than abstainers.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Drinking Beer Can Help You Keep Your Teeth

I love health science, especially when it tells me exactly what I want to hear. Researchers at the University of Copenhagen looked into peoples' mouths to see if beer drinking can be healthy for you. Their findings were published in the Journal of Public Health Dentistry. They looked for an association between the alcohol consumption and the number of teeth older people had. It was noted that women who consumed 1-14 drinks, or more per week, lost fewer teeth than those who abstained from alcohol. It did not matter which type of alcohol they drank (wine or spirits). The result for men was a little different. Only men who preferred beer had more teeth than those that abstained from alcohol. The amount need to save your pearly whites was 6 drinks per week, or just under a standard six-pack.
Don't change your electric toothbrush for a six-pack just yet. There were a few limitations to this study. Alcohol consumption is still a major risk factor for oral cancer. This is mainly due to toxic affects of acetaldehyde, a major by product when your body breaks down alcohol. People with fewer teeth were noted to have other contributing factors for tooth loss: older, lower socioeconomic status, smoked and had a sedentary lifestyle. Regardless, once again science has shown that craft beer and be good for your health.