A small study suggests that moderate daily consumption of lager may improve men's gut health. Photo by Alexas_Fotos/Pixabay
June 15 (UPI) -- Men trying to put a more positive spin on the term "beer belly" might find a new study encouraging. It indicates that moderate daily consumption of lager beer actually could improve their gut health.
The small study, published Wednesday in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, found that healthy men who drank one alcoholic or non-alcoholic lager daily developed a more diverse set of gut microbes, which is associated with a lower risk of chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
"I think the most important finding is that beer can positively modulate intestinal microbiota. It is very interesting to consider that the moderate consumption of beer, with or without alcohol, can be a strategy to improve our microbiota as a part of a well-balanced diet," the study's lead author, Ana Faria, told UPI.
Faria is a professor at NOVA Medical School, a part of Universidade NOVA de Lisboa in Lisbon, Portugal. She conducted the study with her colleagues.
The human gastrointestinal tract is lined with trillions of microorganisms, and beer contains compounds such as polyphenols, as well as live microorganisms from its fermentation process, that could affect the mix of microbiota, according to the chemical society's news release on the research.
In the randomized, double-blind, controlled study, the researchers randomly divided 20 healthy men ages 18 to 65 into two groups, drinking one 11-fluid ounce bottle of either alcoholic lager or non-alcoholic lager with dinner for four weeks.
Participants were instructed to follow the same levels of physical activity and maintain their dietary habits.
The participants' body weight, body mass index and serum biomarkers for heart health and metabolism didn't change over the course of the study, based on blood and fecal samples.
But at the end of the four-week period, both groups revealed greater bacterial diversity in their gut microbiome and higher levels of fecal alkaline phosphatase activity. This enzyme helps ward off bad bacteria in the gut, which researchers said indicates improvement in intestinal health.
Faria, asked whether the small pilot study points the way to broader research, said, "This study certainly raises questions that justify other clinical trials to test other types of non-alcoholic beers, larger studies including men and women, and populations with disease, to confirm its eventual applicability in the correction of dysbiosis."
Why might lager beer have this effect? "We know that microbiota can be modulated by food components, such as phytochemicals, post-biotics, fiber, among other and beer is a rich source of all these components," Faria said.
Why was the study limited to men? "This was an exploratory study, and to reduce confounders, we only choose men. It would be very interesting to conduct a larger study including men and women, and maybe a wider age range," Faria said.
In July 2021, NOVA researchers reported that decreased bacterial diversity increased the risk for severe COVID-19, for which obesity and diabetes are important risk factors.