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St Patrick's Day - Monday 17th

Published: 17 Mar 2014

When drunk in moderation, Guinness and other beers could actually offer a range of health benefits, including greater longevity, lower risk of dementia and helping to ward off a range of conditions.

The old slogan 'Guinness is good for you' could hold more truth than it would first appear, and with today being St Patrick's Day, many people are likely to indulge in a pint or two of the black stuff.

Naturally good stuff

Beer and stout have been brewed for thousands of years using natural ingredients, such as barley, hops, malt and yeast that can be good for the body when taken in moderation.

For example, the barley used to make beer provides a good source of fibre, which can help to lower cholesterol levels. Darker beer tends to contain higher levels of fibre than lighter ales and lagers.

Antioxidants in beer called polyphenols can improve health and are found in greater concentrations in darker brews as they come from the hops. Polyphenols can offer some protection against heart disease, Alzheimer's, cancer and high cholesterol, among other health problems.

Studies show beer might be good for you

It is not just red wine that has been found to help safeguard against heart disease. Research carried out by experts from the University of Wisconsin in the US found that drinking Guinness helped to lower the risk of clots that can cause heart attacks.

According to an animal study, Guinness appeared to reduce the clotting activity in dog's blood in a similar way to aspirin.

Beer has also been shown to improve bone density, reducing the risk of breakages. Experts at Tufts University discovered in 2009 that high levels of silicon in the drink can lead to stronger bones. They conducted experiments with older men and women who drank one or two beers per day, but found that more than this increased the potential for fractures.

Perhaps surprisingly, beer may also inhibit mental decline. Following a study in 2005, researchers discovered the risk of developing Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia dropped by as much as 20 per cent in moderate drinkers.

Those who drink low levels of alcohol have been found to live longer than people who abstain completely and beer lovers may also have higher levels of some vitamins in their bodies. Specialists from the TNO Nutrition and Food Research Institute in The Netherlands found 30 per cent higher levels of B6 in the blood of beer drinkers, with the beverage also containing folic acid, magnesium, potassium and vitamin B.

Raise a glass to St Patrick's good health

The drinks industry is keen to point out that it does not make health claims for alcoholic beverages and stresses the importance of moderation when it comes to enjoying a tipple.

Heavy drinking has a range of potentially damaging effects on health, including raising the risk of some cancers, liver disease and heart conditions, as well as weight gain, poor sleep and high blood pressure.

But, on St Patrick's Day, by sticking to raising just a glass or two to Ireland's patron saint may not only be enjoyable, but could present certain health benefits too.

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