Have you ever wonder if beer has any benefits at all? Are you one of those who will argue without proof that nothing good can come out of alcoholic beverages? Then this news is for you. Health and nutrition experts at the First Nigerian Beer & Health Symposium in Lagos recently were unanimous in the agreement that beer is one of the world’s healthiest drinks. Among other things, the experts espouse how moderate intake of beer can help fight and prevent deadly diseases like, diabetes, kidney failure, cardiovascular ailments, give strong bones, among other health benefits.
Renowned food nutritionist who enlightened the audience and led discussions at the one-day forum include Professor Tola Atinmo, a Professor of Human Nutrition in the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan Oyo State; in his illuminating presentation titled: Beer as Part of a Healthy Lifestyle Prof. Atinmo, stated that “The story of beer is not a new one but the positive side gets relatively untold,” adding that.” People are basically uninformed about the positive aspects in Nigeria, though the country has many breweries and there are millions of beer drinkers keeping them in business.”
To this end, Prof. Atinmo who is also the former Secretary, Editor-in-Chief, Vice-President and President of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria between 1976 and 1990, shed lights on some of the nutrition and health angles associated with beer consumption.
According to him, “A healthy lifestyle is achieved through healthy eating and drinking; adequate rest and stress management; physical and spiritual exercise; abstinence from smoking and hygiene and sanitation. Indeed, a healthy lifestyle is by choice and NOT by chance,” he said.
He added that one of the greatest determinants of health is our consumption pattern i.e. what we eat and drink.
Focusing on beer as a drink variety, he espoused that there are at least two ways in which beer might impact beneficially on the body: First, through a direct physiological impact on bodily tissues and functions (which will be our focus); Second, through indirect impact, but founded equally on a physiological interaction.
Prof. Atinmo outlines the nutrients content of beer and the potentials of such nutrients in the promotion of a healthy lifestyle. As does other equally authoritative presenters, Prof. Atinmo agreed that the healthy properties of beer, when consumed in moderation, are not well understood by today’s consuming public owing to age long stereotypes, longstanding misconceptions and unfounded beliefs that are not based on empirical evidence or research findings.
On his part, Dr. Olu. Malomo, acting head of Department of Food Science and Technology, College of Food Sciences, Bells University of Technology, Ota, Ogun State described beer as the beverage brand “obtained by the yeast fermentation of malted cereal grains, to which hops and water have been added. The family of beverages generally referred to as “beer” has been brewed for centuries,” he said.
His paper titled The Beer Story, traces the history of beer to around 7000 B.C. in Mesopotamia (present day Iraq) when early attempts at brewing occurred, Dr. Malomo stated that the true origin of beer can only be conjectured. “The Egyptians and Greeks also brewed alcoholic beverages by various methods, but the term “beer” did not appear in these early languages. The Babylonians offered brewing recipes, and there are various references to beer in the Bible. The English word “beer” seems to stem from the Celtic word “beor,” which referred to a malt brew made by monks at a North Gaul monastery. In the middle ages, monasteries were the leading producers of beer, and monks are credited with many early brewing techniques, such as the addition of hops to improve the aroma and help preserve the beer. The distinction between ales, lagers, and darker bock beers began to appear in French and Irish writings in the 13th century. It is generally accepted that the modern beers as we know them today date to the 1600s.”
Dr. Malomo’s historically rich presentation was an illuminating exposition into the background, history and development of beer as a beverage brand, the evolution of the brewing industry, detailing landmark eras in the industry’s journey to what it is today.
He also dwelt on the natural ingredients and nutritional properties of beer. “Beer requires these ingredients for brewing: properly prepared cereal grain (usually barley, sorghum, maize or rice), hops (scientific name Humulus lupulus), pure water, and brewer’s yeast. Each ingredient can affect flavor, color, carbonation, alcohol content, and other subtle changes in the beer. Grains are carefully stored and handled to promote highest quality. Hops are cultivated perennially and the useful portions of the vine, the sticky cones, are developed from the bloom. About 16 kg of barley malt and 7 kg of grain are used to make each 1.4-1.5 hectoliters of beer. Large quantities of pure water are extremely important not only as an ingredient, but for maintaining the cleanliness of the brewing equipment. In beer, water high in lime or iron can interfere with the fermentation process and discolor the final product. Yeasts are fungi, which are microorganisms that reduce sugars to alcohol by fermentation. Some types of brewer’s yeast are closely guarded trade secrets. This gives one brewery a competitive edge over the other.”
Interestingly, Dr. Malomo stated that the reintroduction of democracy in Nigeria in 1999 coupled with increase in disposable income of the populace has impacted positively on the beverage industry which he said has shown considerable growth as the advent of a democratic government has led to a more business friendly environment and privatization policies have led to an increase in the size of the beverage industry. He however admits that the beer industry faces many challenges caused by the environment in Nigeria such as poor infrastructure, poor standards of education, high level of corruption, and dearth of the knowledge of the beneficial effect of beer to health when consumed moderately.
Recent research findings by nutritionists have identified beer as a rich source of vitamins, fibre, minerals and antioxidants and has a relatively low calorific value compared with many other alcoholic beverages.
A report, commissioned by The Beer Academy, which aims to help people enjoy beer sensibly, found that when drunk in moderation, beer is one of the healthiest alcoholic drinks available.
A spokeswoman said: ‘Beer contains vitamins which can help you to maintain a well-balanced healthy diet, fibre to keep you regular, readily absorbed antioxidants and minerals such as silicon which may help to lower your risk of osteoporosis.’
A survey found that while 68% of people consider beer to be Britain’s national drink, some 10% wrongly believe that beer contains fat, and 13% incorrectly believe that beer is made from chemicals rather than malted barley, water, yeast and hops.
The report also explores the psychological and sociability benefits of people enjoying a pint in their local pub as a socialising factor. The study posits that the pub is at the heart of every community and a place where people go to enjoy company and find out local news and information.
The one-day knowledge-packed symposium availed the media, consumers and the general public an exciting insight into the global brewing industry.
Experts who spoke at the symposium left no details out in global trends, especially health, nutrition, beliefs, production, agriculture, technology and general issues. The bottom-line of every presentation, empirical finding, research and studies presented focused on moderation in the consumption of the beverage, which is the centre point of the responsible drinking campaign of the brewing industry across the world.