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Heart-Healthy Benefits of Brew

Good for what ales you?

by Michael Braunstein

University of Western Ontario researchers found that beer contains healthful levels of polyphenols, powerful antioxidants believed to ward off many diseases and possess anti-ageing properties. John Trevethick, lead researcher in that study, found one serving of stout or beer delivered an amount of antioxidants equal to a serving of wine.

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Heart-Healthy Benefits of Brew

Oenophiles got nothin’ on us blue-collar beer drinkers now! If you’re weary of the barrage of articles extolling the wonderful health benefits of wine, take heart and lift your stein. It turns out that beer has some health benefits itself.
While alcohol, or any medicine, for that matter, shouldn’t be necessary for a healthy life, mainstream media obsesses on the healthful impact moderate amounts of wine bring us. While beer doesn’t contain one of the important ingredients that makes wine healthful, resveratrol, it does impart health for the heart.
A study from the University of Wisconsin found that dark beers, Guinness stout specifically, have high levels of flavonoids. These naturally occurring substances are present in vegetables and fruits but not so much in lighter beers. Researcher John Folts found that dark beers lowered bad cholesterol, was twice as effective as Heineken in preventing blood clots and the vitamin B in it lowered blood serum homocysteine, linked to clogged arteries.

Choose local and craft-brewed
To take advantage of the benefit of brew, remember that just as locally grown produce is better for you than commercial grade, locally brewed beer is going to be your best bet. When you know your farmer, you know what chemicals they do or don’t put on their crops. The same good advice goes for beer: Know your brewmaster.
Dean Dobmeier has been brewing beer for 26 years and is the brewmaster at Jobber’s Canyon Restaurant and Brewery in Omaha’s Old Market. He also knows a little bit about the health properties associated with a good brew.
While managing a botanical extraction facility for a premium line of herbal medicines, he learned about polyphenols.
“While I was in the botanical field, I naturally received a lot of literature on the health benefits of polyphenols in some of the darker beers that echoed the health benefits of the antioxidants in red wine,” Dobmeier said.
He cautions about commercial beer, though. Commercial food producers are required to label the ingredients of processed foods. Not so with the alcohol industry. If you pop the top on a commercial beer from a mega-brewery, you won’t see a label telling you what’s in it and you may be getting more than you bargain for.
“The mega-breweries add a number of chemicals to light beer especially, to make the product look and behave like a beer should. Qualities such as head retention need to be enhanced,” Dobmeier explained.

Chemicals in commercial beer?
“In a barley malt brewed beer, the protein structure is there because of the amount of malt used. What mega-breweries do is use cheaper grain such as corn and rice to cut cost. Light beer especially is an industry creation. It lowers the cost to the brewer because they use less ingredients, more water and then it becomes bland and inoffensive to as many people as possible. Then the flavor profile tends to be bland in flavor. Because they use those other grains, they don’t have the protein structure to support a head on the beer. So they use chemicals and additives to make it behave like a beer. Those preservatives and chemicals become a component and a lot of people react to that and can get hung over, not because of alcohol but because of the chemicals.”
And who knows what those chemicals are? One report to Congress many years ago identified substances known as adjuncts that were commonly found or allowed in beer. The list includes propylene glycol alginate, calcium disodium ethylenediaminetetraacetate, peptone, sodium erythorbate, benzaldehyde and about 50 others. Not all of them may be bad but with real beer, they are unnecessary. The larger problem is that the manufacturer isn’t required to list them.
Even back before “light” beer existed, a Creighton University research doctor, James Sullivan, found that cobalt added to beer to increase head retention caused heart disease.
“It’s safe to say that all mega-breweries, whether light beer or not, have something going on in the additive department,” Dobmeier cautioned. “It’s something that craft brewers don’t do because it’s not our mindset to do that. We’re not trying to capture 100 percent market share. We’re just trying to find like-minded people who appreciate quality and flavor.
“There are only four ingredients necessary to make beer. I put in only malted barley, water, yeast and hops,” Dobmeier reminded. That is the same list of ingredients allowed by the German Purity Law to be used in the making of beer.
“Of course we add adjunct grains to the extent that a style calls for them,” he said. “I’ll add wheat to a wheat beer, for example. Or I’ll add oats if I’m making an oat style. But those are grains that are added because of the style, not for cost-cutting or economy.”
“In the craft brew segment, it’s a safe bet that you won’t see those kinds of [chemical] additives that are common in mega-breweries. When I filter beer into a serving tank, that’s where it comes from when they pull the handle at the bar. There’s no need for preservatives because it’s not going to last long enough to need it. When you drink one of my beers, it was grain a couple weeks ago! It’s that fresh. It’s always freshest at the brewery and that’s what we are, a brewery.
“Talk to people who used to work at the old Falstaff plant in South Omaha and they’ll all tell you how great it tasted at the brewery. It always does.”
So if you are looking to reap the health benefits of the brew, do it where it’s brewed, dude. And remember these words from Brewmaster Dobmeier: “Light beer is to beer what Velveeta is to cheese.”

Be well.

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Michael Braunstein is Executive Director of Heartland Healing and certified by the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners in clinical hypnotherapy. He graduated from the Los Angeles Hypnotism Training Institute and was an instructor at the UCLA Extension University for 11 years.

Heartland Healing is devoted to the examination of various alternative forms of healing. It is provided as a source of information and not as medical advice. It is not meant as an endorsement of any particular therapy, either by the writer or by Heartland Healing Center, Inc.

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