Beer as liquid food

alcohol and society

In an article from 1924 we read: “beer seems to have been an excellent means of preventing scurvy in earlier times, but it probably contained more yeast then. However, some of the secondary nutrients are lost in the present-day processing methods. As a source of vitamins beer is less important than bread or rice.”

The article in question also considers the main benefits of beer. “Consumed with other suitable food, a quantity of beer of 1.7 litres per day can replace 200 g white bread; it is moreover readily resorbed. Not only does it have heat-producing properties, but it also supplies moderate quantities of potassium and phosphoric acid: it stimulates the appetite and aids digestion and, finally, is free of pathogenic organisms.” It then goes into greater depth on the calorific value of beer in comparison with bread and gives a fairly detailed calculation. “The number of digestible calories obtained when 100 kg of barley is made into beer or bread does not differ much. If it is used to brew beer, then the result is 530 litres representing an aggregate of 177 600 calories. The waste and draff from the brewing process, which is used in chicken, pig or cattle feed and gives eggs, ham and milk, yields 14 650 calories, giving a combined score of 192 250 calories. 100 kg of barley used to make bread gives 75 kg of bread with 180 000 calories. The bran, used in cattle feed, gives 48 kg of milk with 31 000 calories with 211 000 calories.”

It is interesting that the article should count not only the calories actually contained in beer and bread, but also those that we obtain indirectly by eating meat or drinking milk. Modern thinking would consider this to be a rather simplistic reasoning.

Beer Bread Direct calories 177.600 180.000 Indirect calories 14.650 31.000 Total 192.250 211.000

The authors concluded: “Beer therefore has a quite considerable nutritional value.” Reactions to this article were not long coming.
A certain W. Hingst maintained that the calories of beer and bread could not be regarded as equivalent. He also found that too many alcohol-calories could cause damage to the health and that the amount of beer per day was rather high (1.7 litres of beer is equivalent to four shots of Dutch gin). He also considered the price, pointing out that the same number of calories cost 5.5 cents in bread and 73 cents in beer.

Abstract from the Nederlands Tijdschrift voor geneeskunde, 1924


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