Beer and overweight: introduction

Beer is an alcoholic drink made from fermented cereal malt , then traditionally flavored with hops .

There are many types of beers, different in colour, flavour , alcohol content and production method. Many wonder if beer makes you fat. Since it is a “non-food” that provides exclusively ” empty calories ” (later we will understand better what this means), the answer should be positive. In fact, there are all the necessary conditions to define this alcoholic drink as fattening (even if it is not the only one). They share, at least in part, the same characteristics as beer with numerous drinks such as wine (based on fermented grapes ), cider (based on fermented apples ), mead (based on fermented honey ) etc. Even more fattening are spirit products such as spirits ( grappa , whiskey , rum , vodka , gin , etc.) and liqueurs (herbal bitters , fruit liqueurs, spirit creams, etc.).

Let’s go into more detail.

Nutritional properties

General composition of the beer

The most important chemical-nutritional characteristic of beer is that it is a solution of water and ethyl alcohol , in which mainly malt dextrins and some mineral salts are diluted .

Since it is an alcoholic drink (the concentration of ethyl alcohol varies roughly from 3 to over 10%), its consumption has very significant psychological and physiological effects. In fact, the various concentrations of alcohol in the human body have measurable and variable repercussions.

Beer contains phenolic acids, including 4-hydroxyphenylacetic acid, vanillic acid, caffeic acid , syringic acid, p-coumaric acid, ferulic acid, and sinapic acid. Experiments based on alkaline hydrolysis show that most phenolic acids are present as bound forms; only a small part of them can be detected in the form of free compounds.

Characteristics of hops

Hops, and therefore also beer, contain 8-prenylnaringenin, a powerful phytoestrogen . Also present: myrcene, humulene, xanthohumol, isoxanthumol, myrcenol, linalool , tannins, resins and 2M2B alcohol (tert-amyl alcohol ).

Characteristics of barley malt

Barley, in the form of malt, contains condensed tannins , prodelphinidins (proanthocyanidins) B3, B9 and C2.

Tryptophol, tyrosol and phenylethanol are aromatic higher alcohols present in beer as secondary products of alcoholic fermentation (congeners) by Saccharomyces cerevisiae .

Nutritional composition of beer

Below we report a small table that summarizes the main chemical characteristics of a normal lager beer.

Nutritional Factors Amount
Water 93,5 g
Proteins 0,2 g
Lipids TOT 0,0 g
Carbohydrates 3,5 g
Ethyl alcohol 2,8 g
Dietary Fiber 0,0 g
Energy 34,0 kcal
Sodium 10,0 mg
Potassium 35,0 mg
Ferro 0,0 mg
Soccer 1,0 mg
Phosphorus 28,0 mg
Thiamine (Vitamin B1) 0,0 mg
Riboflavina ( Vit B2 ) 0,03 mg
Niacin ( Vit PP ) 0,90 mg
Vitamin A (RAE – Retinol Equivalents) 0,0 µg
Vitamin C ( Ascorbic Acid ) 1,0 mg
Vitamin E (Tocopherols) 0,0 mg

Effect on Weight

How much does drinking beer make you fat?

Does beer make you fat? Everything suggests yes, although as always this depends on the role it plays in nutrition .

Basically, beer is a useless drink. This means that it has a chemical-nutritional content that is not essential and not even useful for human health. Far from it; as we will see later, excessive quantities of beer can lead to serious psychiatric and metabolic pathologies. It is true that one or two alcoholic units of lager beer (330-660 ml) per day are considered within the safe range; moreover, it seems that statistically speaking, moderate alcohol consumption is associated with good life expectancy; Be careful though, a statistical correlation can have a thousand different meanings and mislead you from the real mechanism of the analyzed process.

Having established that beer is not a necessary drink, let’s now move on to its role in increasing adipose tissue ; ergo, gain weight. Beer consumed in excess (meaning exceeding the recommended portion or caloric excess compared to normocaloric energy) can make you gain weight due to various factors:

  1. Conversion of ethyl alcohol into fatty acids, therefore into triglycerides to be stored in the liver (also read Diet and Hepatic Steatosis – Fatty Liver ) and in adipose tissue, with particular interest in visceral tissue
  2. Hyperstimulation of insulin resulting in hyperinsulinemia . At moderate doses, alcohol intake with increased insulin simply causes a slight reduction in blood sugar . However, if the quantity is abundant and hyperinsulinemia occurs in conjunction with meals, nutritional metabolism is compromised . Insulin has an anabolic function which mainly affects adipose tissue in sedentary people with poor peripheral muscle sensitivity. This means that it stimulates the production of fats, not only from alcohol but also from carbohydrates and amino acids , and favors their storage within the adipocytes
  3. Eating disinhibition. Drinking a beer does not only have a bland aperitif function ; in people with a subjective tendency to eat more than normal, drinking beer reduces inhibitory brakes and increases the possibility of having inappropriate eating behaviors.

Is it possible to fix it after drinking one beer too many? No. The transgression of one beer too many cannot (and must not) be USUALLY compensated for by greater physical activity or by reducing the amount of food in the diet. Considering that ethyl alcohol is transformed into fat, one would think that it would be sufficient to eliminate some of the fat in the diet. It is not so. Those in beer are in fact empty calories , which do not contribute to increasing the intake of useful nutrients , unlike seasoning fats such as extra virgin olive oil rich in vitamins , antioxidants and fatty acids good for health. A problem also arises if one wants to increase motor activity, which in itself would also increase appetite and therefore the tendency to indulge further.

In conclusion, if one beer too many “escapes” during a weight loss diet , don’t try to clumsily fix it by restructuring the diet; you would make the situation worse.


Other Effects

Psychological effects of beer

The psychotropic effects of beer depend on the quantity of drink consumed, the percentage of alcohol contained in it, the time elapsed since consumption, the possible consumption of food, medicines and drugs.

This article is not focused on the psychotropic effects of the alcohol contained in beer but, taking the opportunity to promote correct information, below we will provide a small summary table on the effects of alcohol.

BCA – Blood Alcohol Concentration Effects
0,03%-0,12% general improvement in mood and possible euphoria , increased self-confidence and sociability, decreased anxiety , flushing, flushed appearance of the face, impaired judgment and good muscle coordination
0,09%-0,25% lethargy , sedation, balance problems, and blurred vision
0,18%-0,30% profound confusion , impaired speech, staggering, dizziness and vomiting
0,25%-0,40% “stupor”, loss of consciousness , anterograde amnesia , vomiting (death may occur due to inhalation of vomit – pulmonary aspiration – while unconscious) and respiratory depression (potentially fatal)
0,35%-0,80% coma (unconsciousness), life-threatening respiratory depression and possibly fatal alcohol intoxication

Useful Tips

High percentages of alcohol in the blood have very serious effects; these, which can also be measured indirectly with less accuracy through a breath test , can only be assessed with certainty through blood analysis . Unfortunately it is not possible to establish how much beer a certain alcohol level is reached with . For the reasons described above, the impact varies greatly depending on the circumstance. We therefore recommend being very careful when consuming it and above all we do not recommend it before driving.

Diuretic effect of beer

Beer is a powerful diuretic. This effect is based on three different mechanisms:

  • Richness in water: we know that water is the diuretic nutritional factor par excellence. Once absorbed, to maintain the same volume level , the kidneys expel the excess volume with diuresis
  • Ethyl alcohol content: alcohol increases renal excretion of magnesium , causing a rapid and vigorous increase in urinary excretion of magnesium and other electrolytes such as sodium and potassium
  • Presence of hops: it is also diuretic.

Health impact of beer

We said that beer is diuretic and that, if in excess, it makes you fat; Furthermore, alcohol can have short-term repercussions on the central nervous system . What hasn’t yet been mentioned are the long-term effects of drinking beer.

Consuming small daily amounts of alcohol (less than one unit of alcohol – 330 ml of beer – in women and two – 660 ml – in men) is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease , stroke and diabetes mellitus . HOWEVER, no professional medical association recommends, in the absence of a pre-existing habit, to start consuming small quantities of alcohol (among which, however, the most recommended is not beer but red wine ) .

Long-term effects of moderate or frankly excessive beer consumption include: risk of developing alcoholism ( ethyl alcohol drug addiction ), alcoholic liver disease , and generalized malnutrition .

Alcoholism or ethylism is a general term for ANY level of alcohol consumption that leads to psychological or physical problems. In medicine, the diagnosis of alcoholism is positive when two or more of the following conditions are present:

  • Drinking large amounts of alcohol over a long period of time
  • Difficulty reducing consumption
  • Buying and consuming alcohol takes up a lot of time in the day
  • There is a strong desire for alcohol
  • Consumption leads to failure to fulfill basic responsibilities (work, family, etc.)
  • Social issues
  • Health problems
  • Potentially risky situations
  • High tolerance to the serious effects of alcohol
  • Worsening of psychological and emotional balance in abstinence.

Alcoholism reduces a person’s life expectancy by about ten years, and in the United States, alcohol use is the third leading cause of premature death. It is believed that, every year, at least 3.3 million deaths (5.9% of all deaths) are attributable to alcohol consumption.