Beer, an alcoholic beverage, is also called “liquid bread” because of its common ingredients of barley malt, yeast, and hops. Yet, surprisingly, some companies promote beer as a healthy beverage containing beneficial nutrients such as phytosterols. Phytosterols are plant chemicals that bind to cholesterol and help remove it from the body. Some phytosterols, also called plant sterols, are even added to foods and drinks to lower cholesterol. Unfortunately, the answer to the question “Can beer lower cholesterol?” is no. It is true that some beers naturally contain sterols like sitosterol and ergosterol. However, the amount present is insufficient to have a significant impact on cholesterol levels.
Beer and cholesterol: an overview
Your body produces the most cholesterol on its own; the rest comes from food. When your doctor talks about your cholesterol level, they are referring to three components: HDL, LDL, and triglycerides. Total cholesterol is the combined amount of HDL, LDL, and triglycerides.
Although a good brew can make you feel better, drinking beer may not be the best choice if you want to control your triglyceride levels. This is because beer contains alcohol and carbohydrates, which can cause triglycerides to rise rapidly, leading to lower HDL cholesterol levels. High triglyceride levels can also raise total cholesterol, and one should keep their triglyceride level below 150 mg/dL.
Beer and Cholesterol: What the Research Says
Research on the effects of beer on triglyceride and cholesterol levels is limited. Studies looking at the effects of alcohol on triglycerides, cholesterol, and heart health generally don’t specify the type or brand of beer used. Thus, the effect of beer on lipid levels is not known.
Animal studies found that moderate beer consumption can reduce cholesterol levels in the liver and cholesterol accumulation in the aorta. Additionally, researchers have suggested that some unidentified elements in beer influence how lipoproteins are processed. As a result, it can reduce the likelihood of heart problems. However, the specific components and their mechanism of action remain unknown.
A to study by Penn State University suggests that moderate beer consumption can help maintain healthy HDL cholesterol levels. However, the study found that drinking three or more beers a day can lead to an increase in harmful cholesterol levels.
Note from The Fitness Freak
When examining the impact of beer on cholesterol levels, researchers typically focus on the phytosterols and other plant components in barley. However, beer also contains other ingredients that can interfere with cholesterol management. Therefore, it can be said that beer consumption influences triglyceride levels. High triglyceride levels lead to reduced HDL cholesterol levels. Additionally, many beers are high in calories, so if a person consumes enough beer to cause weight gain, it could also affect cholesterol levels.
Beer: Does it have cholesterol-lowering benefits?
There is no evidence to suggest that drinking beer can directly lower cholesterol levels. Heavy alcohol consumption can cause cholesterol levels to rise. However, moderate alcohol consumption, including moderate beer consumption, may have potential benefits for heart health.
Moderation is key to minimizing adverse effects on cholesterol levels and overall health. For healthy adults, experts recommend drinking no more than one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. However, it is also important to note that the benefits of alcohol can vary depending on the type of alcohol. Besides, it also depends on the general diet and lifestyle of an individual.
Note from The Fitness Freak
Drinking beer to control or manage your cholesterol levels is not advised, as it may do more harm than good. It’s always best to consult your doctor or healthcare professional about your alcohol intake. If you are unsure how drinking beer can affect your health, you can seek help from a HealthifyMe nutritionist. They will be able to advise you on how much alcohol you can safely drink.
Pro tips to fight the urge to consume beer or alcohol
You can use several strategies to avoid the urge to drink beer or alcohol. Here are some ideas:
Keep healthy snacks close at hand
To avoid turning to an alcoholic drink when you’re hungry, keep healthy snacks on hand. Stock your fridge and pantry with cut vegetables, fruits, nuts or whole grain crackers.
To drink a lot of water
Keeping your body hydrated can help reduce the desire for alcohol. Bring a bottle of water with you when you go out and take regular sips throughout the day.
Find alternative ways to relax
Rather than relying on alcohol to relax, explore other healthy stress-relieving activities, such as taking a walk, doing breathing exercises, or engaging in a favorite hobby.
Identify the circumstances or emotions that trigger your craving for alcohol. For example, do you feel the urge to drink after a tedious day at work or do you feel nervous or tense? Once you understand your triggers, you can try to find other methods of dealing with those situations or emotions that don’t involve alcohol.
Before attending a social event or party where alcohol is available, prepare accordingly. Bring a drink that does not contain alcohol or promise to limit the number of alcoholic drinks you drink.
Find alternative activities
Try to find activities that you enjoy that don’t involve alcohol. It could be exercising, hanging out, spending time with friends or family, or trying new things.
Having goals in place can motivate your journey to reduce or avoid alcohol. You can choose to set short or long term goals. Examples of short-term goals might be to abstain from drinking for a week or a month, while long-term goals might be to reduce your alcohol intake over several months or a year.
It is recommended to limit your beer consumption to one drink per day (for women) and two drinks per day (for men). But, of course, it’s always best to abstain completely to protect your heart health and guard against addiction.
Moderate beer consumption can have a positive impact on lipids and LDL oxidation. However, drinking three or more beers a day can seriously affect your weight, lipids, and heart health. It also increases the risk of developing cancer, high blood pressure and stroke.
Pregnant women and those taking certain medications should never consume alcohol. If you are unsure if drinking beer or any other alcoholic beverage is safe, please contact HealthifyMe coaches for more information.
Sources of support
1. Degrace P, Moindrot B, Mohamed I, Gresti J, Clouet P. Moderate beer consumption reduces hepatic triglycerides and aortic cholesterol deposition in LDLr-/- apoB100/100 mice. Atherosclerosis. 2006 Dec;189(2):328-35. DOI: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2006.01.012. Published online February 17, 2006. PMID: 16487531.
2. Penn State University Research