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Non-Organic Hops in “Organic Beer” until 2013

Posted by Maggie on June 1, 2011

This was posted in Triple Pundit.  Just FYI.  I am not even brewing organic all the time but I do think that labeling should be correct so that people know what they are buying.

What’s Really in Your Organic Brew?

hops By Inna Volynskaya

Being a responsible beer geek, you opt for a Berkeley-brewed Bison or one of those super green Oregon breweries to quench your thirst. Or maybe you unknowingly bought something that sounded sustainable like Green Valley’s Organic Stone Mill Pale Ale or Organic Wild Hop Lager. The Green Valley label is actually nothing more than Budweiser maker Anheuser-Busch attempting to get a cut of the craft beer market. Anheuser-Busch is able to offer you an organic product at a lower price but is that due to its vast buying power or is something else at play?

There are two main agricultural ingredients in beer: barley and hops. Until a new law becomes active in 2013, brewers can use conventional hops and still carry an organic label. Why? The USDA believes that organic hops are not abundant enough to meet the demands of the growing organic beer sector.

Hops are prone to disease and pests, making it difficult to grow them without harmful pesticides. They are also sensitive to climate, which makes them difficult to grow without fertilizer. According to Mellie Pullman, Supply Chain Professor at Portland State University, “Even organic hops may be treated with compounds containing sulfur, copper, and other ingredients that pose threats to the health of both humans and the environment.” These challenges keep organic hops in short supply and this helps the price tag stay three times higher than the conventional crop. Meanwhile, conventional crops are heavily subsidized diluting price signals in the market.

If giants like Anheuser-Busch paid the high price of organic hops they could have a real impact on the industry. However, thanks to the USDA’s excuses, they are allowed to sink their dollars into conventional crops and still get a marketing boost from organic labels. The burden then falls on small breweries to make a real commitment to impacting the hop industry.

The 2013 deadline gives organic hop growers ample time to meet demand but now brewers who have been allowed to get away with false labeling will have to start walking the talk. The Organic Farming Research Association has already granted funds to research new methods for growing hops. Adapting methods used for other organic crops like apples have proven effective in cultivating the most widely used varieties of hops.

What can you do to make sure real organic beer has a future? As always, educate yourself. Question and research what your labels say. Engage your fellow beer geeks on sites like Beer Advocate to proliferate the conversation. Check to see which breweries are really using organic hops and encourage your favorite breweries to do so. The organic labeling loopholes don’t only apply to beer. Visit Organic Consumers to make sure the premium you pay for organic is worth your dollars.

Inna Volynskaya is a San Francisco Bay Area-based sustainable beer enthusiast, food supply chain specialist, and 2012 MBA candidate at Presidio Graduate School.

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Wired Magazine on Health Benefits of Alcohol

Posted by Maggie on September 8, 2010

This article is from Wired magazine.  It is somewhat surprising and delightful.  I would like to see more research on this topic.   The article can be found here:

Why Alcohol Is Good for You

By Jonah Lehrer
September 7, 2010  |

It’s one of those medical anomalies that nobody can really explain: Longitudinal studies have consistently shown that people who don’t consume any alcohol at all tend to die before people who do. At first glance, this makes little sense. Why would ingesting a psychoactive toxin that increases our risk of cancer, dementia and liver disease lengthen our life span?

Well, the anomaly has just gotten more anomalous: A new study, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, followed 1,824 participants between the ages of 55 and 65. Once again, the researchers found that abstaining from alcohol increases the risk of dying, even when you exclude former alcoholics who have now quit. (The thinking is that ex-drinkers might distort the data, since they’ve already pickled their organs.) While 69 percent of the abstainers died during the 20-year time span of the study, only 41 percent of moderate drinkers passed away. (Moderate drinkers were also 23 percent less likely to die than light drinkers.) But here’s the really weird data point: Heavy drinkers also live longer than abstainers. (Only 61 percent of heavy drinkers died during the study.) In other words, consuming disturbingly large amounts of alcohol seems to be better than drinking none at all.

We live in a reductionist age, in which every longitudinal effect is explained away at the most fundamental possible level. And so this study will no doubt lead researchers to probe the benefits of red wine, with its antioxidants and resveratrol. It will also lead people to explore the cardiovascular benefits of alcohol, since many of the perks of drinking (such as increased levels of HDL cholesterol) seem to extend to people who drink beer and hard liquor.

These are all important hypotheses, the sort of speculations that assuage this drinker’s heart. (I’m no Don Draper, but I certainly enjoy my evening IPA.) Nevertheless, I worry that in the rush to reduce, to translate the unexpected longitudinal effect into the acronyms of biochemistry, we’ll miss the real import of the study.

Let’s think, for a moment, about the cultural history of drinking. The first reason people consume booze is to relax, taking advantage of its anxiolytic properties. This is the proverbial drink after work – after a eight hours of toil, there’s something deeply soothing about a dose of alcohol, which quiets the brain by up-regulating our GABA receptors. (But don’t get carried away: While the moderate consumption of alcohol might reduce the stress response, blood alcohol levels above 0.1 percent — most states consider 0.08 the legal limit for driving — trigger a large release of stress hormones. Although you might feel drunkenly relaxed, your body is convinced it’s in a state of mortal danger.) And so the stresses of the day seem to fade away – we are given a temporary respite from the recursive complaints of self-consciousness. Since chronic stress is really, really bad for us, finding a substance that can reliably interrupt the stress loop might have medical benefits.

But drinking isn’t just about de-stressing. In fact, the cultural traditions surrounding alcohol tend to emphasize a second, and perhaps even more important, function: socializing. For as long people have been fermenting things, they’ve been transforming the yeasty run-off into excuses for big parties. From Babylonian harvest festivals to the bacchanalias of Ancient Greece, alcohol has always been entangled with our get-togethers. This is for obvious reasons: Alcohol is a delightful social lubricant, a liquid drug that is particularly good at erasing our interpersonal anxieties. And this might help explain why, according to the new study, moderate drinkers have more friends and higher quality “friend support” than abstainers. They’re also more likely to be married.

What does this have to do with longevity? In recent years, sociologists and epidemiologists have begun studying the long-term effects of loneliness. It turns out to be really dangerous. We are social primates, and when we’re cut off from the social network, we are more likely to die from just about everything (but especially heart disease). At this point, the link between abstinence and social isolation is merely hypothetical. But given the extensive history of group drinking – it’s what we do when we come together – it seems likely that drinking in moderation makes it easier for us develop and nurture relationships. And it’s these relationships that help keep us alive.

Of course, relationships have their own chemistry, a language of dopamine, oxytocin, vasopressin, etc. But I think that in the rush to decipher the bodily molecules, we are missing the essential lesson, which is that some of the most valuable health benefits don’t come from compounds that can be bottled, or condensed into a gel capsule. Instead, they come from other people, from those lovely conversations we share over a glass or three of wine.

Surgeon General’s Warning: Of course, these longitudinal correlations don’t mitigate the negative, and frequently devastating, consequences of alcohol and alcoholism. Let’s not forget that alcohol can be an addictive substance, and that, in many contexts, drinking promotes violence and thuggishness, and not polite socializing. It’s also essential to note that all of the aforementioned health benefits of alcohol (such as de-stressing and socializing) can also be achieved for free, such as with meditation or by simply being a good friend.

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The Popularity of Craft Beer Explained by Chris O’Brien

Posted by Maggie on May 21, 2010

This is a great article by Chris O’Brien from the blog ‘Beer Activist’, listed on my blog roll.  If people who buy craft beers are ‘cultural creatives’, then what term can be used for home brewers?

Craft Brewing and Eco-Business Trends

(This originally appeared as my “Brewing a Better World” column in the Fall 2006 issue of American Brewer.)

The craft brewing movement is part of a larger social trend toward commerce that incorporates the environment as a core business concern. But environmental concerns go hand in hand with a number of other values associated with the market segment called Cultural Creatives.

First a little context is needed to understand the context of the contemporary environmental business movement, and the cultural creatives market that is driving it. The Industrial Revolution, for the first time in human history, provided people with cheap, uniform, mass-produced goods. Citizens, who had always been producers themselves, became passive consumers on a massive scale. Concurrent with this industrial transition was a loss of spirituality, and changes in gender roles as families grew increasingly reliant on cash to purchase food rather than on largely female controlled subsistence agriculture. Women also lost control of  brewing at the same time. This extraordinary development shattered long-standing social structures as production changed from agricultural, home and craft-scale to colossal urban manufacturing plants. Factory-made items, from washing machines to beer, lured customers with their low prices, consistent quality, wide availability and recognizable brand value.

Industrial production brought some serious problems with it. By removing the end user from the production process, it obscured the environmental results of consumer behavior. As a result, most beer drinkers today have as little clue about what goes into beer as they have about the impacts on nature caused by its production and consumption. Consumers are as insulated from the brewing process as they are the ecological realities of their drinking habits. This distance explains, in part, why we allow the social and environmental problems caused by industrial production to reach the crisis point before we begin to address them. Look how long it has taken us to even consider getting serious about halting climate change.

But more importantly for craft beer sellers is that this consumer alienation provided a market opportunity. Craft beer emerged when industrial brewing reached its nadir in the 1970s. Drinkers sought higher quality, more personal experiences associated with artisanal production rather than the cookie-cutter commodities of the industrial revolution. Better beer drinkers are not alone in this trend. They are part of what Paul Ray, a leading market researcher, terms “Cultural Creatives,” a population of over 50 million Americans that spans all races and age groups.

As customers, cultural creatives insist on authenticity. They want the real thing. Avoiding mass–produced, anonymous units, they prefer local products with unique stories. A few more defining characteristics: they tend to choose natural and organic products; they value women’s issues; health and well-being are priorities; they seek the positive side of the news; and they would like to see a return to spirituality in American life.

The craft brewing movement owes much of its success to the fact that it appeals to this large and expanding market (one in five Americans is a cultural creative) through its ability to communicate authenticity and to create a perception of “naturalness”.

The growth of craft brewing mirrors other market sectors driven by cultural creatives, especially the organic and fair trade food categories. Organic food has grown by 20% or more each of the last ten years, making it the fastest growing segment of the food industry. Similarly, fair trade coffee is the fastest growing niche in the specialty coffee sector. In 2003, U.S. coffee roasters selling Fair Trade Certified coffee for at least 2 years saw an average of 125% year-over-year growth in fair trade sales. These are not isolated examples of success for socially and environmental aware businesses. According to the market research journal Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS), 63 million American adults now base their purchasing decisions on how the products they consume affect the world.

Its easy to see why these sectors are flourishing when one considers the buying preferences of cultural creatives. Organic food communicates environmental sustainability, and fair trade tells hopeful stories of small producers. Craft brewers do both of these well: projecting an image of wholesome naturalness and putting real brewers front and center in the customer experience. But organic agriculture also projects an image of healthfulness, and fair trade is often associated with empowering stories about the lives of female artisans. Craft brewers are missing the angles that appeal to healthfulness and women.

Consider one more cultural creatives market trend: yoga. According to Yoga Journal’s Yoga in America Survey, the market expanded 43% from 2002 to 2005. Yoga, with its blending of spirituality and physical fitness, attracts mostly female practitioners, who account for more than three-quarters of the market. Craft beer has largely failed to cultivate an image of health and spirituality that appeals to females as customers, and for that matter, as professionals within the industry.

How can craft beer better integrate women, health, and spirituality? The reemergence of herbal beers is one positive sign that brewers are exploring ways of appealing to all three of these cultural creative market values. But much more can be done.

To expand beyond the core market, craft brewing must balance its male image with some of the qualities that attract female drinkers to cocktails and wine, drinks perceived as healthier and more feminine than beer and which are experiencing considerable upsurges in sales. Full brand makeovers are not required, merely some extensions. For example, Heartland Brewing, in New York, offers a Berry Champagne Ale made with raspberries, ginger, and pomegranate oil, fermented with Belgian yeast, and served in a champagne flute. Their press release explicitly states their intent to appeal to women with this beer. Smaller serving sizes, and more attractive packaging and glassware are also important. Successful brewers like Dogfish Head and Rogue among many others are packaging in wine bottles and serving in goblets and chalices. For on-premise sales establishments, a family-friendly atmosphere can be a draw for women. Smoke, noise, and a dozen screens of sports, though appealing to some core customers, can unnecessarily exclude potential female customers. The history of beer is dominated by women, but few beer customers know this. This history is rich fodder for creating new marketing themes that replace the image of overweight and immature young males with elegant and empowered beer drinking women.

The health benefits of beer drinking are now well-established scientifically, especially the heart-healthy attributes. But beer still suffers from an image associated with obesity and poor diet. The increasing popularity of beer and food pairings is a promising sign, but much more can be done to associate healthy foods and lifestyles with refined and sophisticated beers. It is essential to educate customers about the nutritional and health aspects of craft beer. Using the tried and true strategies can work: holding health-themed educational tastings; including health information on collateral materials; issuing press releases; sponsoring health events like walkathons and bike races and making sure the link between beer and health is explicit in the sponsorship marketing materials. Concerted legislative pressure is also required to clear the way for the inclusion of positive health information on beer packaging.

Spirituality may be a tougher nut to crack, but there is no reason to think it can not be done. Just as women have been a dominant force in the history of beer, so has worship of the divine. Ritual is central to worship, and beer can be an important component in ritual, as it has been in the past, especially as a lubricant for community bonding. One of the simpler ways to encourage this is to bring beer to post-church service gatherings. Re-integrating beer into community events centered around sacred practice has the additional benefit of renewing the image of beer as a wholesome, family-oriented beverage.

The craft beer market will keep growing as it continues to appeal to the cultural creatives’ market appetite for all things environmental. But whether artisanal beers move into a market majority or not may well depend on the movement’s ability to reach beyond the core male drinker and appeal to the broader cultural creative values of women’s issues, health, and spirituality.

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The Skinny on Beer

Posted by Maggie on May 18, 2010

A recent study found that women who are moderate drinkers are less likely to gain weight, or tend to gain less weight, than women who don’t drink.  This is music to the ears for those of us who love a beer with dinner.  I have edited the article a bit due to some annoying language.

Here is an article from on this study.  The URL is:

Can a beer a day help [you stay slim]?

Bucks County Courier Times

Local dieticians say a new study suggesting moderate alcohol consumption may help some women control their weight is interesting, but nothing to toast about.

Could it be true that a glass of wine a day can keep the pounds away? Don’t break out the champagne glasses yet, [folks].

While a new study suggests one or two alcoholic drinks a day can prevent weight gain in middle-age women at a normal weight, local dieticians are skeptical, saying the large, long-term study isn’t based on scientific research and the results send the wrong message.

Still, the report in a new issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, an American Medical Association Journal, has captured the attention of all American adults, more than half of whom drink alcoholic beverages, according to the study researchers.

The study found that normal-weight women who drank 5 to 30 grams of alcohol daily (the equivalent of .17 to 1 ounce) gained less weight and had a lower risk of becoming overweight or obese than women who shunned alcohol or drank too much.

If you were wondering, a 12-ounce regular beer contains about 13.9 grams of alcohol (and 153 calories), 5 ounces of white or red wine contain about 16 grams and 15 grams of alcohol, respectively (and about 120 calories), and 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor has about 14 grams of alcohol (and 97 calories).

Alcohol is relatively high in calories, containing about 7 calories per gram, which multiplied by 28 grams per ounce works out to 196 calories, the study found. But available scientific research has not consistently provided evidence that alcohol consumption is a risk factor for obesity.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston followed more than 19,000 women ages 39 and older with an initial body mass index in the healthy weight range to study the effects of alcohol consumption on weight gain. The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md

Participants were asked to report how many alcoholic beverages they typically drank daily. Researchers also took into account other lifestyle factors such as non-alcohol caloric intake and physical activity.

Over an average of 13 years of follow-up, the women on average gained weight progressively, but the women who drank no alcohol gained the most weight with weight gain decreasing as alcohol intake increased. Women who drank between 15 to 30 grams of alcohol daily had the lowest risk of becoming overweight or obese, which was almost 30 percent lower than that of non-drinkers. Average weight gain was about 8 pounds for those who didn’t drink compared with about 3.5 pounds for moderate drinkers.

The exception was among more heavy drinkers. The risk of weight gain did not drop further once women drank 40 grams of alcohol per day – about three beers – or more.

Researchers found that one possible reason that women who drank alcohol moderately had little weight gain is that they also tended to eat fewer calories than the nondrinkers.

The American Dietetic Association recommends women limit their alcoholic beverages to one drink a day, said Brian Ligi, a registered dietician at Abington Memorial Hospital.

More than one alcoholic drink a day carries other serious risks including digestive tract cancer and liver disease, he added. He also cited a previous JAMA study found a woman’s risk for breast cancer rises with the amount of alcoholic beverages that she drinks.

“I feel it’s dangerous to draw conclusions from a study like this (weight-related one),” Ligi added

The findings are likely confusing to women who continually hear conflicting messages about the health benefits and risks of alcohol. Other research suggests alcohol metabolism is more efficient among people who are already overweight, so heavier women may gain more weight from alcohol than thinner women.

Another problem with the study is its reliance on the women reporting their weight and alcohol consumption on the initial questionnaire as well as the eight follow-ups, which means the study doesn’t hold scientific water to Laura Woodhead, a registered dietician at Holy Redeemer Health System.

“You’d need more information to make a real claim on this,” she said.

Woodhead also worries about the message that studies like this send, especially when they aren’t framed within a context.

“A lot of outpatients come in asking me these exact same questions or they say, ‘Dr. Oz says this’ ” she said.

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Beer and Your Health

Posted by Maggie on May 11, 2010

This article from explains some of the health benefits of beer.  Who knew it was better for you than wine?  Wine gets lots of press for its health benefits.  Evidently beer also deserves attention.

I don’t agree with author’s claim that industrial beer is as good for you as microbrews.  They do not use the same high quality ingredients and they are more likely to have additives or impurities.   Maybe this website is partially sponsored by Bud.  Also, the last statement is somewhat puzzling.  You judge for yourself.

Wine Is Fine, But Beer May Be Better

Date updated: March 19, 2007
By Sid Kirchheimer
Content provided by Revolution Health Group

As beer drinkers gather to toast St. Patrick’s Day, they might be surprised to discover that the shamrock-shaded beverage not only helps to instill Irish pride, it also could yield some major health benefits.

In fact, studies show that drinking beer — a customary way to celebrate the holiday — can help lower blood pressure and strengthen bones. What’s more, beer may be better for your health than wine.

If you’re surprised, you’re not alone. In a random survey of 1,000 adults that was conducted by the University of Maryland’s Center for Food, Nutrition and Agriculture Policy, 56% responded that wine was healthy, while only 16% thought the same thing about beer. “Frankly, I was surprised that so few people considered beer as healthful as wine,” says center director Maureen Storey, Ph.D.

Indeed, the medical journals have documented the brew’s disease-fighting dynamics. So in the spirit of St. Patty’s Day — and other hoist-worthy holidays — here are some other reasons (as if you need them) to cheer your beer:

•    Stronger bones. Beer is a rich source of dietary silicon, a mineral that improves bone density. “Wine, unfortunately, is not,” notes biochemist Charles W. Bamforth, Ph.D., chairman of the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of California, Davis, and author of Beer: Health and Nutrition (Blackwell Publishing Limited, 2004), an academic book on the healthful properties of brew. “Thus far, the studies indicate a very real reduction in osteoporosis risk if you consume beer … more so than from drinking wine or spirits.”

•    Less hypertension. In one Harvard University study involving 70,000 female nurses, regular beer drinkers had lower rates of high blood pressure than those who drank similar amounts of either wine or spirits.

•    A bounty of nutrients. Although wine is glorified for its reported antioxidant properties — and yes, grape skins have their share — the hops in beer have their own major-league nutrients. One is xanthohumol, a tongue-twisting phytochemical believed to provide more estrogenic punch than soy. (Take note, postmenopausal women.) In test tube experiments, xanthohumol has inhibited the growth of cancer cells. Meanwhile, one European drug company is reportedly testing a hops-powered hormone-replacement-therapy drug.

•    Fiber, folic acid and more. “Beer also contains a significant amount of folic acid and other B vitamins, as well as soluble fiber — all associated with better heart health,” Bamforth adds. “The myth that beer is [just] empty calories is simply not true.”

But what about the calories?

The main source of calories in beer is the alcohol — but ounce per ounce, most beer is lower in calories than wine or hard liquor. While beer contains carbohydrates, they are slow-release carbs — “the good kind,” Bramforth says.

One 12-ounce serving of beer averages 150 calories. One 5-ounce serving of wine averages between 90 calories and 120 calories, depending on the type of wine. Bottom line: Blame the beer belly on the nachos, not the suds, experts say.

St. Pauli Girl vs. Budweiser

Is one beer better than another? There is no evidence to suggest that one brand of beer offers more health benefits than another. The same holds true for dark beers vs. light-colored ones.

The truth is that all beer is made from the same ingredients: barley, hops and water. Most of the health benefits come from the alcohol. What’s more, microbrews don’t deserve a higher-quality or better-for-you reputation than mass-produced beers. Taste aside, the mass-produced ones are equally healthful and use equally high-quality ingredients, Bamforth says.

Heart-smart drinking

The cardiovascular benefits of beer come from the alcohol, which “raises ‘good’ HDL cholesterol, at least as much as regular aerobic exercise,” says Arthur Klatsky, M.D. His landmark 1974 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine provided the first epidemiological evidence that moderate alcohol consumption was associated with lower rates of heart disease.

“You get the same reduction in heart attack risk from a comparable amount of beer as you do from wine,” adds Klatsky, senior cardiology consultant at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif.

“Alcohol also enhances the body’s natural clot-dissolving mechanism to break down clots before they can trigger a heart attack or stroke,” he says. “And recent research shows that moderate drinking seems to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.”

Of course, Klatsky and other experts don’t encourage anyone to start drinking for better health. But if you already imbibe, it’s worth noting that it’s the pattern that provides the protection. “Since these cardio-protective effects are short-lived, it’s best to have 1 to 2 drinks per day — ideally, every day,” Klatsky says.

More specifically, that means having 1 to 2 12-ounce servings of beer, 5-ounce glasses of wine or 1 to 1.5-ounce shots of liquor per day — as opposed to 5 or 6 drinks in one sitting on a Friday night. Excessive intake increases your risk for many health problems. At the other extreme, drinking small amounts of alcohol every so often is not advantageous either and will actually negate some of the health benefits previously mentioned.

“In our data, we’re finding that while moderate alcohol consumption of any type is better than not drinking” at all, the consumption of liquor is less beneficial than wine or beer, Klatsky says. “For women, protection seems to be best with wine. But for men, it’s from beer.”

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Beer and Menopause

Posted by Maggie on May 8, 2010

There is some evidence that drinking beer can help relieve the symptoms of menopause.   This article discussed how the hops in beer are helpful.

March 16, 2010

Beer – The Natural Menopause Treatment

Whilst it may seem farfetched to think of beer as a natural menopause treatment, there is actually credible scientific research to support it. The key feature of beer in relation to menopause is the presence of phytoestrogens.

Phytoestrogens are estrogen-like plant compounds that are also in alternative menopause treatments like soy. They work by binding to estrogen receptors, and so provide a mild estrogenic effect on the body. Phytoestrogens are not as strong as regular estrogen, but as estrogen levels decline in menopausal women, this boost of estrogen has a balancing effect on the body. Supplementing with phytoestrogens in soy and hops (which is made into beer, but can be purchased as a supplement), can alleviate hot flushes and improve the general quality of life for women during menopause.

Hops have more typically been used by herbalists for its mild sedative effect. It’s great for sleeping problems, and also for nervous gastrointestinal and stomach problems. It is stimulating to the stomach, and has been used for anorexia, irritable bowel disease, inflammatory bowel disease, dysmenorrhoea and amenorrhoea.

Hops have long been suspected of having an effect on the hormonal system. Before the advent of machine pickers, women and girls picked the plants at harvest, and would often spend 3 weeks doing so. It was observed amongst the young girls picking hops that their menstrual periods would come on early. But it wasn’t until hops were studied scientifically that this result was explained and validated. It turns out that hops contain very high levels of phytoestrogens – between 30,000 IU to 300,000 IU per 100 grams. The levels of phytoestrogens are highest when the plant is fresh.

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Beer Drinking to Prevent Osteoporosis

Posted by Maggie on May 8, 2010

This article appeared in the UK Telegraph in February of 2010.

Beer boosts bones and fends off osteoporosis

Drinking beer especially pale ale strengthens your bones and could stop them becoming brittle, a study suggests.

By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent
Published: 6:30AM GMT 08 Feb 2010

Great British Beer Festival : Beer boosts bones and fends off  osteoporosis

Beer, especially pale ales, contains high levels of silicon known to slow down the bone thinning that leads to fractures Photo: CORBIS

Researchers found that the drink contained a substance that boosts bones and could mean they are less likely to suffer from osteoporosis.

They discovered that beer, especially pale ales, contains high levels of silicon known to slow down the bone thinning that leads to fractures and boosting the formation of new bone.

The finding, published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, backs up previous research which also showed that the drink was good at fending off brittle bones – especially in women.

“The factors in brewing that influence silicon levels in beer have not been extensively studied”, said Dr Charles Bamforth, lead author at the University of California.

They found that lighter beers with a greater use of hops had the most silicon.

Silicon is present in beer in the soluble form of orthosilicic acid (OSA), up to half of which can be absorbed by the body making beer a major contributor to silicon intake in the Western diet.

Based on these findings, some studies suggest moderate beer consumption may help fight osteoporosis, a disease of the skeletal system characterised by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue.

The researchers found that the extra heat used in malting darker beers tended to destroy some of the silicon. Beers with more hops naturally had more silicon they found.

Osteoporosis or low bone density is often described as a silent epidemic of the 21st century. In the UK alone it results in more than 200,000 fractures annually and costs the NHS more than £1 billion a year.

Three million Britons are affected by osteoporosis.

The actual biological role of silicon in bone health and formation is not known though it is thought to help manufacture collagen, one of its major components.

“Beers containing high levels of malted barley and hops are richest in silicon,” concludes Dr. Bamforth.

“Wheat contains less silicon than barley because it is the husk of the barley that is rich in this element. While most of the silicon remains in the husk during brewing, significant quantities of silicon nonetheless are extracted into wort and much of this survives into beer.”

Dr Claire Bowring, National Osteoporosis Society, said the research did not mean that people head for the pub.

“These findings mirror results from previous studies which concluded that moderate alcohol consumption could be beneficial to bones,” she said.

However, while the National Osteoporosis Society welcomes measures to improve bone health we do not recommend anyone increases their alcohol consumption on the basis of these studies. While low quantities of alcohol may appear to have bone density benefits, higher intakes have been show to decrease bone strength, with an alcohol intake of more than two units per day actually increasing the risk of breaking a bone.

“There are also many other health concerns linked with alcohol which cannot be ignored.”

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