In most cases, the negative effects of alcohol consumption are directly associated with the amount of alcohol consumed and apply regardless of the form of the alcohol. In some cases, however, you may have a sensitivity to ingredients present in one form, such as beer, and you may have to avoid that form of alcohol altogether.
Number of Beers
You may have heard that moderate consumption of alcohol is good for you. Moderate drinking is defined as one drink a day for women and two for men. However, if you don't drink now, you should not start drinking for health. A healthy lifestyle, including good nutrition and exercise, offers more benefits than moderate drinking. Another important point is that if, as a man, you choose to have two beers a day, it does not mean it's okay to guzzle one after the other. Drinking just two beers -- or any alcoholic drink -- in one hour impairs judgment and doubles your chances of having a traffic or household accident.
A 12-oz. can or bottle of beer contains very little nutrition, but it does contain calories. Regular beer has between 140 to 200 calories, while light beer contains about 100. Of even more concern if you're trying to lose weight is the fact that alcohol causes your body to burn less stored fat for energy. Your liver makes a substance called acetate from most of the alcohol in a beer. Your body burns the acetate for energy instead of burning the fat stored on your hips or belly.
Low Blood Sugar
Beer can contribute to weight gain by interfering with blood sugar levels. Your body stores sugar in your liver as glycogen; when blood sugar drops between meals, your liver converts glycogen into glucose, releasing it into the blood. Alcohol interferes with this process. Blood sugar drops, the liver does not convert glycogen, your brain thinks you are hungry and you scarf down a fatty burger, fries and whatever else catches your eye when you don't really need the food. Counteract this by eating a healthy meal before drinking beer to slow the rate at which your body absorbs alcohol.
A cold beer when you're hot is an appealing drink, but use caution if you've been engaging in athletics or working outside in hot weather. Antidiuretic hormone helps your body retain fluid. Alcohol interferes with the hormone's release, which explains those frequent bathroom visits when drinking beer. If you drink beer when you're hot, you lose fluid through both sweating and urine.
Most beer contains malted barley, among other ingredients, and barley contains a protein called gluten. Some people are sensitive to gluten. At the extreme end of this sensitivity is celiac disease, a disorder in which gluten triggers the body's immune system into attacking the lining of the small intestine. If you suffer from gluten sensitivity, avoid beer made from barley. Thanks to the growing awareness of celiac disease, some brewers are now offering gluten-free beers.
- American Heart Association: Alcohol and Heart Disease
- University of California at Los Angeles; Alcohol and You; 2005
- University of Rochester; Caloric Values of Alcoholic Beverages; May 2011
- North Dakota State University Barley Project; Barley and Beer - Some Facts; P. Schwarz
- MedlinePlus; Celiac Disease - Nutritional Considerations; D. Dugdale, et al.; January 2010