Experts say beer consumption has health, lifestyle benefits

By The Citizen

Contrary to the popular perception, health experts said beer has lots of health and lifestyle benefits when consumed moderately. They said this at the first Beer and Health Symposium, an initiative of Nigerian Breweries Plc aimed at changing what the company considers as a faulty public perception towards the product.

Speaking at the event held in Lagos on Tuesday, Professor Bankole Omotosho of the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, said beer could prevent diabetes; reduce stomach ulcer and cholesterol level when consumed moderately.

Omotoso regretted that religion and wrong perception had prevented many people from benefiting from the medical value in beer consumption, adding, 'many people have never looked at beer beyond alcohol.' The university Don, however, warned against its abuse, advising men to restrict themselves to one to three bottles. The female folks due to their slower alcohol absorption rate, he said, should take less quantity.

Of responsible beer consumption, he continued, 'To drink moderately is to drink within the limit set by your health, society and obligations to family and friends. Nobody wants to be a nuisance to the society.'

Omotoso traced the history of beer to about 400,000 years ago when Babylonian fathers-in-laws would supply the substance to their newly-married sons-in-laws, saying the rite was instituted in recognition of its (beer) health value. He argued that beer could not have had negative effects when its top four ingredients - barley, hops, water and yeast ­- have enormous health advantage.

Head of Food Technology, Bells University of Technology, Dr. Olu Malomo, dismissed the masculine myth about beer consumption. He argued that the first beer brewers could not have been women if it was exclusively men's drink.

'While religious bigots kick against beer consumption, it is important to note that modern brewing started in monasteries,' he said, adding that the drink was a natural drink brewed from natural ingredients. Both men and female benefit from moderate beer consumption whereas African culture frowned at female consumers, he observed.

Malomo said the ability of sorghum, a beer ingredient, to reduce mortality and cardiovascular diseases has been clinically proved. According to him, beer also helps to flush out excess salt in human system.

The academic regretted that intake was still very low in Nigeria whereas South Africa's consumption rate has exceeded 60 per cent. He, however, noted that the market, which was contracted by the economic downturn, had experienced considerable growth since 1999, a trend driven by innovation and market share expansion.

Tobore Akpodibi, a medical practitioner, said consumer's lifestyle and attitude not beer, was responsible for 'pot' belly, which many people associate with alcohol.

He explained, 'People who go to bed as soon as they finish drinking stand the chance of developing big tummy,' recalling how beer consumption came to his rescue when he was diagnosed to have a stone in the heart.

Managing Director/ Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria Breweries, Nicolaas Vervelde, said the company has contributed much to the country's economic development and helping Nigerians to live healthy lifestyle but regretted the damage caused by negative perception.

Vervelde said responsible drinking and moderation was fundamental to harnessing beer benefit, and that the company has been at the forefront of promoting that.

But the participants said the company needed to do more to rev up campaign against irresponsible consumption. Safety experts who were at the programme said little has changed since the campaign against alcohol abuse commenced some years ago. Punch