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6 ways that drinking beer could actually be good for your health

Luke Rix-Standing takes a look at some of the unexpected health benefits that come with cracking open a cold one

Thomas Jefferson once said: "Beer, if drunk in moderation, softens the temper, cheers the spirit and promotes health." Though he may not always be right about the temper - ask the bouncers at any UK nightclub - he may be surprisingly correct about the health claim.

Though a hefty proportion of us may find this hard to believe (particularly when staggering from slumber on a Sunday morning with heads like bongo drums) a range of studies have highlighted that beer has benefits for an array of organs and senses.

Before you go charging off on a medically-advised 'mad one', these benefits are limited - NHS guidelines stipulate no more than 14 units of alcohol per week for men and women. Your merciless hangover has in no way been vindicated, and the good doctor is not about to endorse your 10-pint pub crawl.

But when consumed in moderation (I'll say it again: moderation), the perks of a pint might even outweigh the pains. With this Friday National Beer Day, we take a look at some of the biggest benefits beer drinking has for your body.

1. It may reduce the risk of heart disease

Perhaps the most proven positive of a well-placed pint: drinking beer is good for your heart. According to a 2012 study published in the European Heart Journal, beverages rich in polyphenols, like beer, have been shown repeatedly to carry substantial cardiovascular benefits, and drinking one half to two pints of beer a day lessens your chance of heart disease by around 25%. So here's your unusual prescription - plenty of exercise, a healthy diet, and a congratulatory post-run pint. Now let's move on, before anyone mentions the liver.

2. It can be good for your long-term memory

With an emphasis on 'long-term'. After a boozy night out, don't expect to know what you did or said after your seventh pint of Stella. However, studies suggest that chemicals found in beer can slow the progress of degenerative cognitive diseases like Alzheimer's. Sipping on your beer of choice won't help you study for your exams, but, decades down the line, it might help you remember which ones you passed.

3. It's apparently good for your bones

We'll admit that, overall, alcohol probably causes more broken bones than it prevents, but given that small amounts of beer actively increase your bone density, you can probably scratch most of these accidents up to user error. According to a 2013 study, beer contains a high proportion of silicon, a key component of bone construction, in quantities not found in most foods. Products high in hops and barley are particularly effective, so grab a Sam Smith's or a Sierra Nevada to help safeguard your skeleton.

4. It could increase your creativity

Okay, so this may be one for your mental rather than physical health - and believe me, it doesn't make your drunk Facebook statuses any less embarrassing - but evidence suggests a light tipple increases creativity and outside-the-box-thinking. A 2017 study published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition, found participants with a small amount of alcohol in their bloodstream outstripped their sober counterparts in cognitive tests, despite losing, in the words of the study, "a degree of executive control". It's as Hemingway (supposedly) said: "Write drunk, edit sober."

5. It may help your sight

This may sound like alcoholic mysticism - or at best a dubious marketing strategy - but there is evidence to suggest that unlatching a lager might be just as good for your eyes as gulping down a carrot smoothie. According to researchers from Canada, one beer a day releases anti-oxidants that help to stop the formation of cataracts. Unsurprisingly, there's a catch: drinking three or more beers a day reverses this trend, on top of fuzzying your faculties.

6. It could reduces the risk of kidney stones

No one seems entirely sure why beer carries this particular benefit, but a 2013 study suggested that a bottle before bedtime could reduce the risk of kidney stones by 40%, or even more. Some put it down as a component of hops, others to the increased fluid intake, but all agree that periodic beer drinking is doing your kidneys a kindness. Quaff them into shape at your leisure - just get used to the odd bathroom break.

So, a toast to your health. A beer for memory, a couple for bone structure, a lager for the heart and a bitter for the brain. But not all at once. Let's just have one for all of them.

Belfast Telegraph

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