Review hails health benefits of beer-gut alliance

By Asia Sherman

- Last updated on GMT

© Avokado Studio / Getty Images
© Avokado Studio / Getty Images

Related tags Beer Prebiotic Probiotic Health benefits immune function functional beverage

Drinking beer could be good for your gut and immunity, stimulating healthy microbiota diversity thanks to the beneficial brew of compounds found in the fermented beverage.

“Due to the conversion of beer substrates, the formation of bioactive end products, and the presence of microorganisms, some of its components exert ‘similar’ or even greater effects than probiotics,” scientists from the Department of Microecology at Dalian Medical University and the Tsingtao Brewery in China wrote in the latest volume of the journal Frontiers in Nutrition.

Their review is just one of a growing number of scientific publications – from researchers in Belgium, China, Portugal, Romania and Spain – making the case for a beer-gut microbiome alliance chock-full of health benefits.

From social to functional benefits

Beer, one of the most widely consumed beverages (second only to water and tea) throughout history, was adopted as staple and divine drink in Sumerian and Babylonian cultures, imbibed during ancient Chinese funerary ritual, rationed out to laborers during pharaonic times, and produced by monks during the Middle Ages. 

Today, it is drawing attention for its functional rather than psychopharmacological and social properties, with research delving into the microorganisms, polyphenols, dietary fiber and melanoidins that interact with the gut microbiota to promote health outcomes along various pathways in the body. 

“As a long-established fermented beverage, beer is rich in many essential amino acids, vitamins, trace elements, and bioactive substances that are involved in the regulation of many human physiological functions,” the review noted. “The polyphenols in the malt and hops of beer are also important active compounds that interact in both directions with the gut microbiome.” 

Previous studies have investigated how these beer bioactives may help prevent arteriosclerosis​ and heart disease​, improve blood circulation and immune function​, support antioxidant and anti-aging effects​, promote estrogen production​, confer cardioprotective benefits​ and reduce radiation damage​. 

Focus on the immune function

The Chinese researchers highlighted the consensus among previous animal and human trials showing that low or moderate beer consumption, with or without alcohol, supports healthy immune function.

“[W]hen beer is consumed in moderation, the phenols and other nutrients it contains are fermented and broken down by the microbial community that resides in the outer mucosal layer of the gut,” they noted. “This miraculous digestive process produces a large number of metabolites that, through the interaction of multiple microorganisms in the inner mucosa, in turn, promote changes in the abundance of beneficial flora, exerting a range of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immunomodulatory effects.”

The review suggests that these immunomodulatory effects may be attributed to the interaction between beer’s polyphenols, fiber and ethanol as they work together to enhance the development of a healthy gut microbiome but calls for further study to confirm whether beer can be used as a micro-ecological regulator in the future.

Source: Frontiers in Nutrition
“Beer-gut microbiome alliance: a discussion of beer-mediated immunomodulation via the gut microbiome”
doi: doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2023.1186927
Authors: Silu Zhang et al.

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