Swollen breasts from beer?


Question:Can you tell me how many beers it takes for a man to develop gynecomastia? Is it something to do with drinking a special kind of beer? Are there any scientific studies on the subject?

Answer: A distinction must be made between formation in men of spurious breasts that consist exclusively of deposits of fat, and gynecomastia in the stricter sense, which also involves development of the mammary gland fibre. Both forms are common. Breast-formation in men almost always occurs spontaneously, without apparent cause. It frequently occurs among adult men (30%) and can even reach 60% after 70 years of age, which indicates a link with the reduced production of the hormone testosterone.

There is no known indication that the consumption of a particular beer is a direct cause of gynecomastia. However, there may well be an indirect link among heavy drinkers (habitually more than 25 glasses per week), since abnormal breast-formation occurs among alcoholics with cirrhosis of the liver. In point of fact, alcoholics display a general tendency towards feminization. Scientific research tends to regard gynecomastia mainly as a side effect of medicines, not the consumption of beer.



Influence of drinking speed


Question:is drinkin “excessive” quantities of beer at different times of the day harmful to the health? In other words, when I drink two beers before lunch and a couple more before dinner, and if I then go out four hours later and drink another couple of glasses in the pub, is that as bad as drinking six glasses of beer one after the other?

Answer: No. In the first case, you won’t get drunk, in the second you will. There is a clear difference as regards immediate effect. However, if excessive drinking spread over the day becomes a daily habit, harmful consequences will sooner or later inevitably occur for heart, liver and brain. Regarding results, any difference between the two forms of drinking will disappear in the long term.



Beer in combination with a mediterranean diet


Question:I follow the mediterranean diet where the maltose contained in beer is the work of the devil. Since I like beer, I couldn’t bring myself to give it up for longer than the first two weeks of the diet, during which alcohol is totally taboo. You can drink afterwards, but wine is recommended. (I’m not a wine-drinker, I like my beer). I drink only twice a week, and I’m trying to find the best beer. Is there such a thing as beer with a low maltose content? I know that there are many alcohol-free beers, and that even low-carbohydrate beers are being advertised these days. It’s not only the calories and carbohydrates, it’s mainly the sugars (maltose) I have to cut back on. Do you have any suggestion? I would greatly appreciate your contribution.

Answer: The mediterranean diet is an excellent idea for healthy nutrition. However, there are numerous possible variants for the application of the food pyramid. There are, for example, no indications that wine is any more suitable than beer. The crux of the matter of is the calorific value, which depends on the alcohol and the carbohydrates. There is no great difference in this connection between wine and beer. What is best avoided when following a mediterranean diet is the replacing of ordinary beer (say, lager) with low-alcohol beer, which contains considerably more maltose. It can safely be said that the maltose content increases as the alcohol content of the beer decreases. A moderate beer consumption – a maximum of three units per day for men and two for women – is not only acceptable with a mediterranean diet, but is also, as with all other alcoholic beverages, to be recommended for its beneficial effects on health.


Residual sugars in beer


Question:many thanks for the answer to my question about the effect of beer on cholesterol levels. You write that beers with practically residual sugars may be found in big chain stores and in biological shops. I have visited a number of them, and I can honestly say that the people in Cologne could have heard the commotion when I asked for a beer with no residual sugars. So I would like to ask you once again if it is in fact the case that old gueuze and Orval do not now contain residual sugars.

Answer: unfortunately we cannot explore the specific properties of individual brands of beer, for which we refer you to the breweries. However, we can say that old beers with secondary fermentation in the bottle, usually contain very little if indeed any residual sugars, since the sugars are converted into alcohol and carbon dioxide during the secondary fermentation process. This picture can be altered by the addition by the brewer of additional sweetening agents. A pity that you had no success in your visits to the chain stores or the biological shops. In the meantime I can suggest, e.g., some branches of Delhaize and the Bio-planet department of Colruyt (Ghent and Kortrijk).



What effect does beer have on cholesterol levels?


Question:My latest blood sample showed, once again, that my cholesterol is too high. That is, the HDL to LDL is very bad, besides which my triglycerides count is much too high. Hence my question: the doctor tells me to go easy with the beers because of the residual sugars they contain, and because they are converted into fats. And it just so happens that I’m a devout beer-drinker. I’ve heard it said that old geuzes and trappist beers by Orval do not contain any residual sugars. Is that true, and are there other beers that don’t contain any residual sugars?

Answer: It is a scientifically established fact that moderate beer-drinking has a beneficial effect on the cholesterol level. The “good” HDL cholesterol goes up as the “bad ”LDL cholesterol goes down. The answer to your question therefore implies either that you drink too much beer, or that your doctor is not as familiar as he or she might be with the results of more recent scientific research. Your eating habits and lifestyle can also have a great impact on cholesterol level.

Most traditional beers contain residual sugars to a greater or lesser degree. In an effort to avoid this, beers have been placed on the market in recent years in which the residual sugars are almost completely removed. Special brewing techniques and the addition of enzymes ensure that the residual sugars are almost completely fermented off. These beers are now on sale in the big chain stores and in biological shops.



Beer and bowel movement


Question:Why do I always have trouble with my bowels the day after spending the evening drinking beer? I’ve noticed that others have the same problem too, so I would like to know: is it something in the beer? Or do I react strangely?

Answer: What you describe is a very common reaction after drinking large amounts of beer. This will not happen to you when you drink beer in moderation. The cause of the less pleasant effect is perhaps twofold. Firstly, an excess of beer upsets the entire micro-biological balance of your stomach and the intestinal flora, which means that digestion will not occur in a normal manner. Secondly, a high alcohol content will cause chaos in the brain, with not only the mental faculties being affected, but also the unconscious processes that control the stomach and the intestinal tract. The result is the revolt of the body, which does its best to eliminate the toxins by the top or, so to speak, by the bottom. Drinking the occasional glass of water between beers should moderate the effect somewhat. Or better still, don’t drink too much beer.



Urine test for alcohol


Question:Do you have a graph that shows the rate at which alcohol leaves the body through the urine in an alcohol test?

Answer: The urine test for measuring alcoholemia or blood alcohol is used only very rarely nowadays, on account of its being more time-consuming and less accurate than tests via blood samples or exhaled air. Alcohol usually leaves the body at the average rate of 0.15 g/h. However, it should be pointed out that this value may differ considerably from one person to the next and will also depend on the circumstances of the drinking episode. The concentration in the urine is generally assumed to be 1.3 times greater than that in the blood at the time of testing.



What is considered “a beer”?


Question: As beer is served in a great variety of quantities, i.e. 12 oz, 22 oz bottle, 16 oz glass “a pounder”, and in some areas by liter. For scientific purposes then, what is consedered “a beer”?

Answer: The answer is simple: for scientific/health purposes, by ‘a beer’ is meant the quantity in a 12 oz (33 cl) bottle.



Stomach pain after drinking


Question:I drink quite a bit during the evening, but I try to stay off the beer completely for 3 or 4 days during the week, to give my body a chance to recover. Because I’ve been having trouble with my stomach (it was worse a while ago, even when I didn’t drink), I had a check-up of the oesophagus/stomach/intestines. There was nothing in particular to report. Now I get it only when I drink beer, then I’m often down with stomach ache all the next day, sometimes even for 2 days. Why is that? And what is the pain? Could it be the liver? Personally, I don’t think it’s my stomach, even the liver seems unlikely, because I drink only 3 days a week. So what then? I have no health problems otherwise. I seldom have a hangover. Could it be some kind of virus, because I’ve been suffering with this stomach ache since I was on holiday in Turkey.

Answer: First of all: regularly drinking beer and then stopping three or four days is not healthy. It’s much better for your health to spread your drinking evenly over the whole week. As for your stomach ache: it may have any one or more of a number of different causes, such as the liver function or even a viral infection, as you yourself suggest. The probability is, of course, relatively high – since you are in the habit of drinking large amounts regularly, even if it is only on three days of the week – that your liver function will have been affected. Only a thorough medical examination can tell you what’s what. Talk it over with your general practitioner.



How do I get rid of that beer belly?


Vraag:What’s the best way to get rid of a “beer belly”? By healthy eating, by high transpiration, by staying off the alcohol or by regular sport. Which is the best way?

Answer: healthy eating habits and physical exercise are the best remedies against excessive accumulation of fat. The “beer belly” usually piles on not because of drinking beer, but rather through eating too much fat plus too little exercise. In 1997 researchers from the Limburg University Center conducted an extensive representative study into the connection between average body-mass index (B.M.I.: the weight divided by the square of the height) and the amounts of beer consumed. No significant link was found to exist. Studies in other countries yielded the same result. The “beer” gut appears to be more the effect of fatty foods than of the consumption of beer.