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Friday, August 02, 2013

I’d really like to believe beer is a health food, but …

The link to this article arrived in an email from RealAge.com, and the article can be found here on the RealAge site.

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By now, we’re all familiar with junk medical advice from the local news and the internet. This one is a doozy.

There’s no medical studies cited at all. (not even ones of dubious quality sponsored by the beer industry).

The mechanism by which beer is helpful is because beer contains silicon, and silicon is used in collagen production.  So does sand. “the most common constituent of sand in inland continental settings and non-tropical coastal settings is silica (silicon dioxide, or SiO2), usually in the form of quartz”. But only a bonehead would eat sand in order to improve their bones.

Is the silicon in beer in a more accessible form, more easily used by the body than the silicon in sand? The article doesn’t say.  Is there some shortage of silicon in the diet of most men? any men? The article doesn’t say.  We know “twelve million men have bones that are getting thinner and more brittle every day”, but not whether more beer would be helpful to this in any way. 

Here’s an article on treatment of osteoporesis in men. No mention of beer or silicon.

Here’s another article, from the National Institutes of Health.  No mention of silicon.  NIH doesn’t seem to think beer would be helpful:

Alcohol abuse: There is a wealth of evidence that alcohol abuse may decrease bone density and lead to an increase in fractures. Low bone mass is common in men who seek medical help for alcohol abuse.

In cases where bone loss is linked to alcohol abuse, the first goal of treatment is to help the patient stop, or at least reduce, his consumption of alcohol. More research is needed to determine whether bone lost to alcohol abuse will rebuild once drinking stops, or even whether further damage will be prevented. It is clear, though, that alcohol abuse causes many other health and social problems, so quitting is ideal. A treatment plan may also include a balanced diet with lots of calcium- and vitamin D-rich foods, a program of physical exercise, and smoking cessation.

But who are you going to believe? Our government may be lying to us once again, and the truth may be found on the RealAge website.  Or not.

Update

Well, it turns out there is an actual study out there, although as you will see it doesn’t change any of the points I made above.  I have not read the original study (it’s in a journal I don’t have access to via my university library, Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, which means it may be a bit obscure), but  from a blog post, at BeerBeer.org it’s clear no direct relationship to health has been shown.

[study author Charles] Bamforth told reporters that the results shouldn’t be taken too serious. The study examined the beers but it did not look at bone mineral density or analyse patients’ data.

“I would first consider flavour and whether you like it or not,” he told science and technology magazine Discover.

“Choose the beer you enjoy, for goodness sake.”

But note that Discover magazine -- a somewhat unreliable source, more interested in "fascinating” results than what’s proven – picked this up.