Beer is ‘no less healthy than wine’

The majority of Britons wrongly believe that wine is healthier than beer, when in fact moderate drinking of any alcohol is the key to good health, according to a recent survey by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).

A bar at the 2012 Camra Great British Beer Festival

A poll of 1,000 people, carried out by independent research company TNS, found that 67% of Britons thought drinking wine was the healthier option over beer, while 13% believed drinking beer was more healthy.

However Professor Charles Bamforth, of the University of California, Davis, and author of Beer, Health and Nutrition, said the belief that wine was somehow healthier than beer was a “myth” and that moderation was the key, not your choice of tipple.

He said: “The myth that wine is in some way healthier than other alcoholic drinks dates back many years to research carried out in France, a predominantly wine drinking country. This suggested that moderate wine drinkers were healthier than non-drinkers.

“The crucial point is that it was a comparison with non-drinkers. When similar studies were carried out in the Czech Republic, a nation of beer drinkers, just the same protective effect was seen with beer. This study showed the lowest risk of heart attacks in men who drank “almost daily or daily” consuming between 7- 16 pints of beer a week.”

“The difficulty of measuring the effect of drinking on health is that differences can be masked by other aspects of lifestyle, such as smoking, diet and exercise. A paper from the Harvard School of Public Health in the USA reanalysed the results from a large number of previous studies from around the world to take these differences into account. This research showed strong evidence that moderate consumption of any alcoholic drink is linked with a lower risk of heart disease and that most of this protection comes from the alcohol rather than any other component in the drink”.

“There is nothing magic about wine and heart disease; the benefit comes from moderate alcohol consumption. But moderation is the key word. If you drink too much, any health benefits to your cardiovascular system quickly disappear. This is equally true whether your favourite tipple is beer, cider, spirits or wine.”

Colin Valentine, chairman of CAMRA, said: “Recently I met a friend who was rather grumpily nursing a glass of red wine having been told that it was better for him than the real ale that he loves. It’s good to be able to reassure him that this is nonsense; in moderation, beer is just as healthy as wine.

“As well as the huge range of flavours and styles available to suit any palette, the big advantage with beer is that it is low in alcohol. It’s much easier to ensure that you don’t overstep the mark and start to undo the good that a drink can do to your health. The important thing is to drink as part of a healthy lifestyle. A brisk walk to the pub for a pint of real ale will do you far more good than sitting on the sofa at home with a bottle of wine.”

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