Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Got Beer? Beer and Bone Health.

I just love “feel good” research – when a vice turns out to be good advice. Recently, a friend of my mother emailed me with a question about beer and bone health. She had read that some types of beer are high in silicon, which could help make the bones stronger. This of course begs the question: is beer the new milk? There’s already good evidence that moderate drinkers of any type of alcohol (one to two drinks a day or fewer) may have stronger bones. But what about beer and silicon specifically? Being a beer lover myself, I was intrigued and did a quick search of the scientific literature. Here’s what I found out:



  • Beer is a major source of silicon. Silicon may help bone formation.
  • While drinking moderate amounts of any type of alcohol can help the bones, beer and wine seem to have the most benefit.
  • Too much alcohol (more than 1 to 2 drinks a day) can make the bones weaker. A drink is generally defined as: 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, 1 ½ ounces of liquor.
  • Drinking too much also increases the likelihood of falling – increasing your chances of breaking a bone!
  • There’s no daily recommendation for silicon but the average intake is about 20-50 mg.
  • A recent study looked at how much silicon is in various types of beer. It ranged from 6 mg up to 56 mg. Ales, lagers, and IPA’s were the highest with IPA’s the highest of all. Why the difference among the brews? The more malt and hops, the more silicon. Wheat based beers are much lower in silicon since the silicon is higher in barley and hops.
So does this mean you should take up beer drinking for better health? The evidence is still lacking as to how much benefit you get and whether drinking beer lowers your chances of breaking a bone. But, if you like beer and keep it moderate – no more than one a day for the women and two for the men –you may be getting some bone building from this tasty beverage! I certainly won’t tell my patients to stop drinking beer as long as they do it safely.


As for me, I may have to do some personal research on this intriguing topic. Now which bar, I mean laboratory, should I use for my experiments?


Beth Kitchin MS RD
Assistant Professor of Nutrition Sciences
University of Alabama at Birmingham


Sources:

Tucker KL, Jugdaohsingh R, Powell JJ, Qiao N, Hannan MT, Sripanyakorn S, Cupples LA, Kiel DP. Effects of beer, wine, and liquor intakes on bone mineral density in older men and women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89:1188096.


Casey TR, Bamforth CW. Silicon in beer and brewing. J Sci Food Agric. 2010;90:784-788.