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Is Beer Good For The Bone Health?


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By Margarita Nahapetyan

Drinking beer may be good to keep our bones strong because it is a significant source of dietary silicon, which contributes to bone mineral density and prevents osteoporosis, suggests a new research.

The experts Charles Bamforth and Troy Casey from the Department of Food Science & Technology at the University of California, Davis studied commercial beer production in order to determine what is the relationship between methods of beer production and the resulting silicon content. The researchers examined a variety of raw material samples and found that there was a little change in the silicon content of barley during the malting process.

Among the findings:

  • The category called India pale ales, which contain large amounts of hops and undergo less heat treatment during brewing, was found to have the highest average silicon levels.

  • Darker beers, including the chocolate, roasted barley and black malt beers, were found to have less silicon levels due to heat stress during the brewing process. Pale ales, which undergo less heat treatment during brewing, have higher amounts of silicon.

  • Light beers and non-alcoholic beers, which include grain from corn, have the least silicon levels among all.

  • Beer made from barley has more silicon than beer made from wheat because barley husks are high in the element. Hops contain much more silicon levels when compared to barley, but much less of them are used in making beer. However, highly hopped beers would be expected to contain larger amounts of silicon levels.

After testing 100 commercial beers, Bamforth and Casey discovered that the beer's silicon content ranged from 6.4 mg per liter to 56.5 mg per liter, with an average of about 30 mg. Since it has been established that two pints of beer are just equal to approximately one liter, drinking two glasses of beer could provide 30 mg of silicon. And while there is no official recommendation for daily silicon intake, the experts say, based on the average daily consumption of between 20 and 50 mg, two liters of beer, on average, would be needed to satisfy that requirement. In some cases, even one liter of beer can be enough.

While previous research has suggested that beer could be linked to maintaining strong bones, or could have other benefits such as limiting kidney stones and gallstones, Bamforth and Casey stress that beer should be consumed in moderation given the detrimental health effects of a few brews too many.

Based on the new findings, the researchers say also that moderate drinking of beer may help fight osteoporosis. However, other scientists and nutritionists urge caution, arguing that sources of calcium and vitamin D are much more important to maintain strong bones than silicon. They say that drinking more than two units of any alcoholic beverage on a daily basis increases the risks of breaking a bone.

Details of this study are published in the February issue of the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.

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