Brewing expert examines health potential of beer

Beer is often dismissed as a mere pleasant libation, at best, or an evil abomination, at worst. Few people stop to consider that the age-old beverage "is very much a food" with genuine benefits when consumed intelligently, writes a UC Davis brewing scientist.

In his new book, "Beer: Health and Nutrition," Charles Bamforth sets forth a "warts and all" discussion of the beverage, which archaeological discoveries suggest has been around for at least 6,000 years.

He traces the history of brewing, the attitude of various cultures and religions toward beer, and its role through the ages as part of the diet. He also discusses the importance of moderate consumption of beer and the potential for abuse and addiction.

On the more technical side, Bamforth examines the science of malting and brewing, in the context of beer as a source of energy, vitamins, minerals, fiber and certain plant-derived compounds called "phytonutrients." These compounds, which have antioxidant properties, appear to have protective benefits for humans against cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Bamforth discusses at length the impact of alcohol on human health. He concludes that beer can make a positive contribution but that it should be "taken in moderation as part of a balanced diet," and that no "producer of alcohol-containing beverages should overtly market a product on the basis of health benefit."

The 184-page book is published by Blackwell Science Ltd., Oxford, England.

Bamforth, who has a Ph.D. in biochemistry and a Doctor of Science degree in applied biology, is a professor in UC Davis' Department of Food Science and Technology. He is a founding faculty member of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science at UC Davis and author of the books "Beer: Tap Into the Art and Science of Brewing" and "Standards of Brewing."

Before coming to UC Davis he was employed in the brewing industry in England. His current research program focuses on beer quality.

UC Davis offers both undergraduate and graduate training in malting and brewing science. It is the only top-rated university in the United States with a full teaching program in brewing science, and one of only two in the world to teach the subject in English. The university has a small pilot brewery for practical work. Among the brewing classes offered at UC Davis is a course that addresses, among many other topics, the importance of sensible attitudes toward alcohol.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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