Meet beer is back (in fact, it never went away), now with physiology, double-blind studies, and statistics.
Physiology of alcohol
To begin with, a little excursion into general physiology.
Ethanol is one of the most easily absorbed substances, comparable in absorption rate to water. It begins to enter the bloodstream directly from the oral cavity. In other words, even if you did not swallow an alcoholic beverage, a small amount of ethanol entered the bloodstream.
Along with the blood, ethanol enters the liver, and two enzymes with long and scary names come into play: alcohol dehydrogenase converts alcohol into acetaldehyde (a rather toxic substance). After that, acetaldehyde dehydrogenase breaks down toxic acetaldehyde (a cool thing with names, right?) into acetic acid and water.
Alcohol tolerance depends on the work of these enzymes:
- both enzymes act quickly: a person gets a little drunk and does not suffer from a hangover.
- the first acts quickly and the second slowly: ethanol breaks down quickly, but toxic acetaldehyde accumulates in the body and leads to a severe hangover. There is a craving for a hangover, and addiction develops rapidly. This combination is often found in Asians and northern peoples, so they are very susceptible to alcoholism.
- the first is slow and the second is fast: the intoxication comes very quickly, but there is no unpleasant sensation afterward.
- both are slow: the person gets drunk quickly and recovers badly, but this combination is better than 1-fast 2-slow because in this case, the drinker passes out before he has had time to receive a toxic dose.
The manifestations of intoxication are due to the part of ethanol that did not have time to be broken down by the first enzyme and reached the brain and blood vessels.
- In the brain, ethanol activates inhibitory neurotransmitters (substances that transmit signals in neurons). These neurotransmitters slow down the transmission of impulses and reduce the activity of neurons, causing relaxation and relaxation.
- Ethanol stimulates the release of dopamine – the happy hormone, the same that is released when running and after eating chocolate. And the mood improves. Likely, ethanol interacts with other mediators in the brain, but this issue is not fully understood.
- Ethanol dilates superficial vessels. There is a deceptive feeling of heat, but in fact at this time the body is cooling down due to increased heat transfer. The combination of alcohol and frost is particularly dangerous.
And alcohol is a high-calorie thing, and regular consumption of large amounts leads to obesity. People who consume moderate or low amounts of it do not tend to gain weight in the short term. But even the scientists themselves admit that these people probably lead healthy lives. There are questions about snacking for this study, but overall the trend is clear. However, with severe alcoholism, when the absorption of nutrients is already impaired, there is a chance of losing weight.
Toxic effects are not as noticeable externally, but no less dangerous. In order to neutralize the incoming ethanol, the liver is forced to work in overload, the antioxidant systems do not have time to cope with the neutralization of the toxic effect of acetaldehyde, so the liver always suffers when he drinks alcohol.
In fact, because the liver cannot instantly neutralize all of the toxic breakdown products of ethanol, they splash around in the blood for a time, damaging every organ they enter. The degree of damage depends on the dose and frequency of use.
And the question of a safe dose is a separate big topic, to which we turn.
Utilization rate – yes or no?
Ethanol is one of the body’s normal metabolites. It is believed that we produce and neutralize about 10 grams of pure ethanol per day without consequences. Scientists have suggested that we can metabolize the same amount of pure alcohol from the outside without consequences.
Hence the recommended consumption rates – a small glass of beer (with a strength of 4% it is 250 ml), 100 ml of wine (with an average strength of 10%) or 25-30 ml of strong alcohol .
These are figures without taking into account weight, gender, age, percentage of body fat (ethanol is retained in fatty tissue), nationality and many other factors.
But! In a recent study (2018), a group of researchers analyzed alcohol consumption in 195 countries between 1990 and 2016.
They calculated average consumption (the amount sold in the country divided by the population over 15) and the number of alcohol-related deaths and disabilities. This included not only classic alcohol-related diseases (cirrhosis of the liver, neuropathy, certain types of cancer and intestinal diseases), but also injuries, cases of tuberculosis, and traffic accidents.
Among the population aged 15-45, alcohol consumption was the leading cause of death (worldwide), causing 3.8% of total mortality among women and 12.2% among men, i.e. 2 .8 million people.
According to the results of this analysis, the risk of all possible harmful effects of alcohol consumption continues to decrease when alcohol consumption is reduced to below one standard drink per day. In other words, the security level is zero.
A few additional details. Usually, the harms and benefits of alcohol are weighed up something like this: the risk of some type of cardiovascular disease (specifically, coronary heart disease) when consuming small doses of alcohol is lower than that of abstainers and heavy drinkers. Verdict: Useful.
The guys from the Lancet publication said this: the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) from drinking one dose of alcohol per day is lower than that of teetotalers and more active drinkers. Add to the risk of coronary heart disease the possibility of suffering from an accident, domestic injuries, various types of cancer, tuberculosis, and injuries during conflicts based on alcohol consumption – and we get a completely different picture.
Physiology of other active substances in beer
And finally, we came to the actual beer.
In addition to alcohol, it contains a lot of substances, the most studied of which are antioxidants related to those of red wine (and of identical effectiveness), various types of yeasts and bacteria, vitamins and trace elements. (for more details see here, but on the prevention of tumors and diseases of the heart and blood vessels are also here).
- polyphenols and flavonoids in beer are similar to resveratrol in red wine. They have antitumor activity against certain types of cancer (colon, ovary, prostate). Several hundred of these substances have now been isolated from beer. The most studied of these is xanthohumol from hops.
- The same polyphenols, led by xanthohumol, are powerful antioxidants. They prevent cell damage and reduce inflammation.
- Ethanol in combination with non-alcoholic components of beer reduces the amount of “bad” cholesterol, reduces the risk of blood clots (and, as a result, heart attacks, and strokes), slows the development of atherosclerosis.
- The beer microbiome is proven to help maintain healthy gut microflora.Phytoestrogènes
One of the most popular horror stories about beer is that it contains female sex hormones. If a man drinks a lot of beer, his chest will grow! And the beard will fall!
Yes, hop and malt polyphenols, in particular, all the same humans (as well as sinapic, ferulic, and caffeic acids), are similar in structure to estrogen.
Yes, they are absorbed by beer.
Yes, phytoestrogens are effective as replacement therapy for menopause, which means they work the same way as female sex hormones.
But! Their minimum effective dose is 0.4 mg/kg (for 8-prenylnaringenin, which was used in the experiments). For an 80 kg man, it is 32 mg. With an average beer content of 4mg/100ml, you need to drink 800ml of beer every day for at least 8 weeks to get a significant effect.
Still. For hop phytoestrogens to work, you need to drink 800ml of beer (with a recommended maximum of 250ml) per day.
Therefore, in all experiments, extracts of individual active substances are used, and liters of beer are not poured over experimental subjects.
Beer and sports
Most open source studies examine fluid and electrolyte balance after exercise. The research scheme is approximately the same: subjects carry out a load until they lose 1-2% of their weight with liquid, after which they drink various drinks – water, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beer, isotonic, beer with added sodium (probably salty, strange as that sounds).
This study compared regular beer (5% alcohol), non-alcoholic beer, isotonic and water. Isotonic was best at replenishing fluid balance (after 5 hours, 42% of fluid remained in the body), worst – non-alcoholic beer and water (36% and 34%), and very poorly – regular beer (21%) .
In another similar study, non-alcoholic beer with added sodium salts won.
When consuming fluids before exercise, non-alcoholic beer also performed well.
However, we have an entire article on the subject of beer and hydration.
If, while reading this text sheet, you have a question “Is it possible that for everything good and against everything bad, in the sense of leaving the useful and removing the harmful” – congratulations, the same thought came to many scientists, and they managed a lot.
To clarify right away, the harmful effects are mostly associated with ethanol, so the main ways to make beer safer are to remove alcohol from it or isolate polyphenols, microbiome and vitamins/trace elements in separate preparations.
With “remove alcohol” everything is simple and it is unlikely that it was done thinking about a healthy lifestyle. Either way, zero beer has been with us for many years.
Supplements containing polyphenols have also been on sale for a long time. Resveratrol is particularly popular. You can even choose from several manufacturers.
A bunch of varieties of brewer’s yeast dietary supplements – a kind of attempt to collect vitamins, minerals and microbiome in one tablet. But it’s more for those who don’t want to take mineral supplements or synthetic vitamins. They can be allergic.
So to drink or not to drink?
From the phrase “It’s too early, it’s not healthy” in the results of the articles, it will soon be possible to precisely recognize the author 🙂
This is also true with beer. Yes, all alcoholic beverages have many negative effects. And judging by the new research, the minimum recommended dose isn’t very safe either.
But if you drink three liters of even ordinary water in the evening, you will also not feel very well. Quantity matters.
The benefits of beer components are definitely there. And it’s in your power to minimize its damage – choose alcohol-free options or take active ingredients in the form of dietary supplements.
Although the benefits of a glass of good beer in the company of friends are not only in vitamins, trace elements and other chemistry and biology.
In light of new research, let’s recall the recommendation of the Ukrainian Ministry of Health that there is no safe dose of alcohol.
Run, enjoy life – let nothing stop it!
Under no circumstances do we recommend the consumption of alcohol, especially for minors, pregnant women, drivers and people whose work requires concentration. It is an addictive psychoactive substance, so be responsible and careful.