Thursday, September 30, 2010

Good news for beer drinkers by Dr. Erik Skovenborg (3)

Vitamins in beer

Beer, primarily an enjoyable drink, also contains important vitamins. The main ingredient of beer is malt - sprouting barley and during malting the vitamin content increases. One litre of beer supplies the body with the following percentage of its daily requirement:
  • B6 17% Niacin 13%
  • B2 (riboflavin) 17% Biotin 17%
  • Panthothenic acid 8% Folate 10-45%
Dr. Caroline Walker, a biochemist for Brewing Research International is investigating the healthful aspects and nutritional value of beer. In the last decade it has become clear that increasing folate intake may provide protection against cardiovascular disease and cancer:
  • High levels of homocysteine in the blood are linked with an increased risk of cardio-vascular disease. If folate supplies are adequate, homocysteine is converted to harmless methionine. Adequate folate intake could prevent 2-4% of cardiovascular deaths.
  • An adequate level of folate in the blood is essential to the normal function of the enzymes maintaining healthy DNA. Lack of folates due to an inadequate folate intake may lead to DNA damage and cancer.
Unfortunately folate is one of the vitamins most likely to be lacking in Western type diets typically low in fruit and vegetables. Caroline Walker pointed out that beer accounts for 10% of the total folate intake by adults in the UK. The folate content of 1l beer corresponds to the folate content of 300g tomatoes. A study of 2290 men from Wales found that alcohol consumption was linked to lower homocysteine levels. A similar population study from the Czech Republic found beer consumption linked to lower homocysteine levels and higher folate levels (European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2001;55:605-9).

Beer, bones and silicon

When the question is what beverage to drink in order to get strong bones, milk, as an important source of calcium, clearly has the upper hand. In his lecture Dr. Jonathan Powell, Senior Lecturer and head of a research group on mineral metabolism at the Dept. of Gastro-intestinal Research, St Thomas Hospital, London, drew attention to silicon - an essential element for growth and development, especially of bone and connective tissue.

Recent work has shown that a supply of low levels of soluble silicon promote bone fracture healing. Normal dietary silicon intake in adults is 20-50mgs/day. The content of 10-40 mgs silicon in a bioavailable form (orthosilicic acid) makes beer a major dietary source of silicon. In several population studies a moderate intake of alcohol was associated with a higher BMD (bone mineral density) = stronger bones. Whether dietary silicon and moderate beer drinking protects against reduced BMD in humans and therefore, protects against osteoporosis is presently under investigation.

In a paper published in the Lancet 1977, Klaus Schwarz presents a logical argument for the hypothesis that lack of silicon may be an important aetiological factor in atherosclerosis. Silicon is essential for growth of connective tissue and unusually high amounts of bound silicon are present in the arterial wall, especially the intima. In atherosclerotic arteries silicon levels are greatly reduced. Industrial refinement can greatly reduce the amount of silicon in foods. Hence the hypothesis that lack of bioavailable silicon in modern diets may play a part in the promotion of atherosclerosis, and silicon may exert a protective effect against CVD. Klaus Schwarz found an inverse relation between silisic acid in drinking-water and the prevalence of CHD in Finland. They never investigated the silicon content of beer and, therefore, they missed the opportunity to look for an inverse relation between the silicon intake of beer drinkers and CHD in beer drinking countries like Germany and the Czech Republic.

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