Study suggests a beer a day can increase diversity of gut bacteria

2022-06-15

The state of our gut microbiome continues to be linked to a range of health outcomes, with the diversity of these microbial populations believed to play an important role in our vulnerability to disease. A small pilot study suggests that moderate consumption of lager beer may influence this diversity in a positive way, whether it’s a traditional brew or one of the increasingly popular non-alcoholic variety.

Led by scientists in Portugal, the study sought to build on previous research hinting that moderate beer consumption might increase the diversity of gut bacteria. The researchers tested this idea through double-blind, randomized study with 19 healthy males, who were divided into two groups that drank 11 oz (325 ml) of either alcoholic or non-alcoholic beer with dinner each day.

This took place over a four-week period, with blood and fecal samples collected both before and after, and gut microbiota analyzed through a form of RNA gene sequencing. Interestingly, the scientists found that drinking this amount of beer led to no increase in body weight or body fat mass, and didn’t alter serum markers for heart health and metabolism.

While the findings suggest that one bottle of beer a day may be beneficial to gut health, the scientists do emphasize that the safest level of alcohol consumption is none.

What did change, however, was the diversity of the gut bacteria in both groups, along with higher levels of fecal alkaline phosphatase, a measure of intestinal health. The scientists suggest they could be induced through compounds in the beer such as polyphenols and microorganisms that facilitate its fermentation.

While the findings suggest that one bottle of beer a day may be beneficial to gut health, the scientists do emphasize that the safest level of alcohol consumption is none. In addition to established health risks such as liver disease, high blood pressure and heart disease, recent research has uncovered direct causal links with cancer. Given that beer’s potential benefits for gut health appear to be independent of alcohol, the study provides yet another reason to opt for a non-alcoholic version.

The research was published in Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

New Atlas, 15 June 2022
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