Beer, an alcoholic beverage, is also called “liquid bread” due to its common ingredients of barley malt, yeast, and hops. Yet, surprisingly, some companies advertise 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 beverages to lower cholesterol. Unfortunately, the answer to the question, “Can beer lower cholesterol?” is no. It is true that some beers naturally contain sterols such as sitosterol and ergosterol. However, the amount present is insufficient to impact cholesterol levels significantly.
Beer and Cholesterol: An Overview
Your body produces the most cholesterol itself; the rest comes from food. When your doctor talks about your cholesterol levels, they refer to three components: HDL, LDL, and triglycerides. The total cholesterol is the combined amount of HDL, LDL, and triglycerides.
Even though a nice brew could make you feel better, drinking beer may not be the best choice if you want to keep your triglyceride levels in check. That is because beer contains alcohol and carbohydrates, which can cause triglycerides to increase rapidly which then leads to a decrease in HDL cholesterol levels. High triglyceride levels may also increase total cholesterol, and one must keep their triglyceride level below 150 mg/dL.
Beer and Cholesterol: What Research Says
Research on the effects of beer on triglyceride and cholesterol levels is limited. Studies that address the impacts of alcohol on triglycerides, cholesterol, and heart health usually do not specify the type or brand of beer used. Thus, beer’s effect on lipid levels is not known.
Animal studies have revealed that moderate beer consumption can reduce cholesterol levels in the liver and cholesterol accumulation in the aorta. In addition, the researchers suggested that certain unidentified elements in beer influence how lipoproteins are processed. As a result, it may decrease the likelihood of cardiac issues. However, the specific components and their mechanism of action remain unknown.
A study by Penn State University suggests moderate beer consumption may help keep HDL cholesterol levels healthy. However, the study did find that consuming three or more beers a day can lead to harmful cholesterol levels rising.
The HealthifyMe Note
When considering the impact of beer on cholesterol levels, researchers typically focus on phytosterols and other plant components from barley. However, beer also contains other ingredients that may be detrimental to managing cholesterol. Therefore, one can say that beer consumption influences triglyceride levels. Elevated triglyceride levels cause a reduction in HDL cholesterol levels. Additionally, many beers are high in calories, so if a person consumes enough beer to cause weight gain, this could also harm cholesterol levels.
Beer: Does it Have Any Benefits for Cholesterol?
No evidence suggests that drinking beer can directly reduce cholesterol levels. Heavy alcohol consumption can lead to a spike in cholesterol levels. However, moderate alcohol consumption, including moderate beer consumption, may have some potential heart health benefits.
Moderation is vital to minimise adverse effects on cholesterol levels and overall health. For healthy adults, experts recommend not having 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 may vary depending on the type of alcohol. In addition, it also depends on an individual’s overall diet and lifestyle.
The HealthifyMe Note
Drinking beer to control or manage your cholesterol levels is not advisable, as it can do more harm than good. It is always best to consult your doctor or a healthcare professional about your alcohol intake. If you are unsure how drinking beer may affect your health, you can seek help from a HealthifyMe nutritionist. They will be able to advise on how much alcohol is safe for you to drink.
Pro Tips to Combat the Urge to Consume Beer or Alcohol
You can use several strategies to help avoid the urge to drink beer or alcohol. Here are a few ideas:
Keep Healthy Snacks on Hand
To help avoid turning to an alcoholic beverage when you’re feeling hungry, keep some healthy snacks on hand. Fill your fridge and pantry with cut-up vegetables, fruit, nuts, or whole-grain crackers.
Drink Plenty of Water
Keeping your body hydrated can help lessen the desire for alcohol. Bring a water bottle 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 like taking a stroll, doing breathing exercises, or indulging in a favourite pastime.
Identify the circumstances or emotions that prompt your craving for alcohol. For instance, do you feel the need to drink after a tedious day at work or feel nervous or tense? Once you understand your triggers, you can attempt to find alternate methods of dealing with these situations or emotions that don’t involve alcohol.
Before attending any social event or party where alcohol is available, prepare yourself accordingly. Bring a beverage that does not contain alcohol, or promise to limit the number of alcoholic drinks you will consume.
Find Alternative Activities
Try to find activities that you enjoy that do not involve alcohol. It could be exercising, hobbies, 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 either short-term or long-term goals. Examples of short-term goals could be to abstain from drinking for a week or a month, while long-term goals could be cutting back on your alcohol consumption over several months or a year.
It is a general recommendation that you limit your beer intake to one glass per day (for women) and two drinks per day (for men). But, of course, it is always best to abstain from it altogether to protect your heart health and guard against addiction.
Moderate consumption of beer may positively impact lipids and LDL oxidation. However, having three or more beers in a day can severely affect your weight, lipids, and heart health. It also increases the risk of developing cancer, high blood pressure, and stroke.
Pregnant women and those on 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.
The Supporting Sources
1. Degrace P, Moindrot B, Mohamed I, Gresti J, Clouet P. Moderate consumption of beer reduces liver triglycerides and aortic cholesterol deposit in LDLr-/- apoB100/100 mice. Atherosclerosis. 2006 Dec;189(2):328-35. DOI: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2006.01.012. Epub 2006 Feb 17. PMID: 16487531.
2. Penn State University Research