I have to confess, I’m not a beer drinker, but there’s someone in my household that loves it, so I had to figure out the truth. Is beer really healthy? Why are the ingredients not listed on the label? Which brands can we trust? Which brands are trying to slowly poison us with cheap and harmful ingredients? All of these questions were going through my head at once at lightning speed. So a year ago, I started to research what was really in beer and after questioning several beer companies, reading books about food science, and talking to experts, the information I discovered was downright shocking.
I see it all the time. Someone who eats organic, makes the right choices at the grocery store, is fit and lives an extraordinarily healthy lifestyle but then drinks beer like it is going out of style.
Caring about what you eat doesn’t necessarily translate into caring about what you drink and this is a HUGE MISTAKE.
Before we get into what exactly is in beer that you should be worried about, let’s talk about how body reacts to alcohol in general.
Alcohol is metabolized by the body differently than all other calories you consume. Alcohol is one of the only substances that you consume that can permeate your digestive system and go straight into your bloodstream. It bypasses normal digestion and is absorbed into the body intact, where it goes straight into the liver.
Your liver is your main fat-burning organ. If you are trying to lose weight or even maintain your ideal weight, drinking alcohol is one of your worst enemies. The liver is going to metabolize alcohol first vs. the fat you want to get rid of – making weight loss even harder. Additionally, one of the primary functions of the liver is to remove environmental toxins from your body – if it is overtaxed with alcohol, the normal removal of these toxins becomes extremely diminished and can result in rapid aging, loss of libido, and other diseases.
The one thing that has gotten me before and I’m sure many of you – is the health marketing claims on alcohol products making drinking them seem like a good idea and an added “benefit” to your health. The low alcohol content of beer makes it appear as an innocuous beverage and something people throw back without even thinking about it. Who hasn’t seen those studies that say a beer a day is great for you (I want to ask who ever stops at just one beer?)?
So, inherently, alcohol by itself is not a healthy person’s best friend – but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Beer, especially American beer, is made with all sorts of ingredients beyond the basic hops, malt and yeast. There are numerous other ingredients used to clarify, stabilize, preserve, enhance the color and flavor of beer.
When you drink beer, there is almost a 100% chance that you don’t know what you are drinking (unless you quizzed the beer companies like I did). The ingredients in beer are not required by law to be listed anywhere on the label and manufacturers have no legal obligation to disclose the ingredients. For regular beer, calorie levels and percent alcohol are optional and for light beer calories are mandatory but alcohol levels are optional.
Michele Simon, a public health lawyer, author of Appetite for Profit, and president of Eat Drink Politics told me the reason that beer companies don’t disclose ingredients is simple: they don’t have to.
“Ingredient labeling on food products and non-alcoholic beverages is required by the Food and Drug Administration. But a whole other federal agency regulates beer, and not very well. The Department of Treasury – the same folks who collect your taxes – oversees alcoholic beverages. That probably explains why we know more about what’s in a can of Coke than a can of Bud. You can also thank the alcohol industry, which has lobbied for years against efforts to require ingredient labeling.”
I figured if the beer companies aren’t required to tell us the exact list of ingredients, I needed to investigate this for myself and asked them the pointed questions until I got the truth.