Beer And Bones

2012 Health Benefits of Beer

Beer and Bones

Have a pint for healthy bones! Who would have thought? But current research is revealing some surprising benefits of beer in the area of healthy bones.

Most people know that calcium is an important food ingredient for developing the bones. However, it’s a little know trace mineral found in beer called ‘Silicon’ that is responsible for bone benefits of this alcohol. Dietary silicon is an important mineral for maintaining strong bone density.

Silicon has similar properties in the body as calcium: supporting new bone formation, strengthening formed bones and maintain bone density.

Tests done on over 100 beers found different beers have different silicon content. Generally pale ales had a higher content of silicon than light larger, wheat beers and non-alcoholic beer. Research on how the raw materials and the brewing process impacts the silicon content showed that malted hops and the barley are the richest in silicon. Furthermore, the malting process does not affect much the silicon levels in barley as the mineral is mostly found in the epidermis (husk) which is not much impacted by malting.

Silicon is therefore recommended for the prevention and treatment of bone loss conditions such as osteoporosis, an ailment characterized by brittle bones. Osteoporosis mostly occurs in the elderly and in particular among post-menopausal women. Osteoporosis increases the risk of fracturing and breaking of the brittle bones from falls and heavy blows. For many years doctors and nutritionists have advocated taking lots of milk, dairy and fish which are a good source calcium and vitamin D that are some of the base elements for good bone structure. Now there’s talk of light beer consumption as bone enhancing measure.

Another benefit of beer is related to the plant hormones of the grains used for brewing. Hormones called phytoestrogens (plant derived-oestrogen) have been isolated in beer and they are believed to boost the natural oestrogen properties in women. Lowered oestrogen levels in women are also linked to the risk of developing osteoporosis.

The recommended intake for beer on a weekly basis is up to 35 units (280 grams), or 5 units a day. For women the maximum recommended beer consumption is lower, at two units a day. Silicon is also found in wine but not in hard liquors. The bone density of men who had a couple glasses of beer or wine a day was higher than that of primarily liquor drinkers. It is believed the liquor-making process eliminates most of the silicon.

Several studies have further shown that while light to moderate beer drinking has it benefits to the, exceeding this amount has the reverse effect on the bones. The benefits of beer are erased during high consumption and may even increase the risk of breaking a bone.