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Passion for Homebrewing

It all depends on the number of cans you crack open.

If your idea of relaxing at the end of the day involves cracking open a beer, you’re not the only one. According to Statista, in 2021, the U.S. beer industry had around $109 billion in revenue, and, on average, consumers drank about 68 liters (18 gallons) within the year. Compared to other alcoholic beverages, beer is easy to come by in stores due to its low alcohol by volume (ABV); many beers are under 5% ABV, making them sellable in grocery stores in states with strict liquor laws. However, while those low ABV numbers may make drinking beer seem like a better option than other alcoholic beverages, it’s important to note how drinking a beer every day does take a toll on your overall health—both immediate and long term.

Nutrition Information of Beer

According to the USDA, one 12-ounce can (355 mL) of regular beer contains:

What Happens When You Drink It Daily

May Aid Your Bone Density

According to a 2021 review published in Nutrients, drinking beer has been linked to increased bone mineral density for both men and women, and the consumption of one beer per week has been associated with a lower risk of hip fracture. However, more research must be done to support this and evaluate if the benefits outweigh the downsides of beer consumption.

Could Disrupt Your Sleep

While drinking beer—as well as other types of alcohol—is popularly known for making the consumer feel relaxed and experience feelings of euphoria, the intoxication of alcohol can affect your brain’s long-term health.

“The alcohol in beer can affect the brain so that reflexes are slowed down, and [your] balance, memory and sleep may be impaired,” says Kimberly Gomer M.S., RD, LDN.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states that alcohol can affect your brain’s communication pathway and even affects your brain’s ability to process information.

As Gomer mentions, sleep can be impaired even if you consume a light amount of alcohol during the day. A 2018 study published in JMIR Mental Health compared the sleep quality of participants who consumed different amounts of alcohol and found that even light drinkers (drinking two or fewer servings for men, one or fewer for women) experienced a 9.3% decrease in sleep quality. When consuming alcohol, the liver kicks into gear to metabolize the alcohol, which can result in a fitful night of sleep.

Slows Down Your Weight-Loss Process

“Every time you drink beer, it goes directly to your liver,” says Gomer. “The body has no ability to store alcohol, as it recognizes it as a toxin. It is then prioritized by the liver to be used for energy.”

When consumed, alcohol goes to the “front of the line,” as Gomer says, because the liver is prioritizing getting rid of that toxin first. So if you are in the process of trying to lose weight, because alcohol is prioritized, it can slow down the entire fat-burning process.

“The liver’s job is to filter circulating blood and destroys toxic substances, including alcohol,” she says. “The liver can handle a certain amount of alcohol, but as a person continues to drink, it can become stressed to the point of causing permanent damage.”

May Cause Digestive Issues

“Alcohol is first broken down in the stomach, promoting an increase in digestive juices,” says Gomer. “Alcohol also irritates the small intestine and colon where it is further broken down and absorbed, and it also can affect the normal speed that food moves through them, which may result in abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea.”

When consumed in large amounts, alcohol can cause intestinal inflammation and cause issues within the gastrointestinal tract and the liver, per a 2017 publication in Alcohol Research. Alcohol can negatively alter the bacteria in your gut and permeate the lining of the intestine (leaky gut syndrome), making the body even more susceptible to alcohol-related diseases—including alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Contradictorily, some research, such as a 2020 study in Molecules, suggests that due to beer’s fermented compounds, this alcoholic beverage, in particular, could potentially benefit your gut health.

Could Dehydrate You

“The alcohol in beer can result in dehydration,” says Gomer. “The kidney is responsible for regulating fluid and electrolytes, and alcohol can disrupt hormones that affect kidney function, which can affect the kidneys and the body’s ability to regulate fluid and electrolytes. It also disrupts hormones that affect kidney function.”

However, one study published in 2017 in Nutrients found that when drinking moderate amounts of low-alcoholic beverages, such as beer, the diuretic effect of this drink was not as strong as other alcoholic beverages like wine and liquor. So if you drink beer moderately and make sure to drink water as well during the day, that may help you avoid dehydration—which is known to be a contributing factor to the morning-after hangover, per the NIAAA.

Can Increase Your Risk of Chronic Diseases

Limiting the number of drinks really does matter when it comes to taking care of your long-term health— particularly when it comes to lowering your risk of several chronic diseases.

Although a small 2018 study published in Nutrients found some connections between moderate drinking and improved heart health due to alcohol’s potential ability to decrease HDL (“good”) cholesterol, a 2022 systematic review published in The American Journal of Medicine concluded that many observational studies may have overestimated the benefits of alcohol consumption, mainly wine, in cardiovascular health, by not considering other factors such genetics, lifestyle and socioeconomic associations with wine consumption.

Additionally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive drinking can increase your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure and even cardiomyopathy, a disorder that affects the heart muscle.

Along with heart-health risks, the CDC also states that drinking alcohol has been linked to increasing the risk of certain types of cancer, such as mouth and throat, voice box (larynx), esophagus, colon and rectum, liver and breast cancer for women. The American Cancer Society says that alcohol consumption accounts for 6% of all cancers and 4% of cancer deaths in the United States.

The Bottom Line

Beer is among the most popular alcoholic drinks in the U.S. and worldwide. Some research has associated its consumption with benefits such as increased bone density, improved gut health and better lipid levels.

However, alcohol consumption, particularly binge and heavy drinking, can negatively impact your health, increasing the risk of certain types of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, liver diseases and early death.

The question is, do the benefits outweigh the risks? Regardless of what the answer might be, it’s important to consume alcohol in moderation and responsibly, following the CDC’s guidelines to limit daily intake to two drinks or less for men and one drink or less for women.

excerpt from eatingwell