Is non-alcoholic beer a good alternative for your health?

Between the festivals, the heat wave and the July 14 bridge, to avoid raising the blood alcohol level, the French are turning more and more to these drinks. What does science say?

HEALTH – A long weekend on July 14, three major festivals (Francofolies, Lollapalooza and Vieilles Charues), a heat wave… All the conditions met for a good part of France to cool off around an aperitif with friends this week-end.

For many, who says aperitif says beer, wine or other alcoholic drink. But it must be remembered, alcohol is responsible for 8% of cancers in France. “From one drink a day on average, we consider that you have a risky consumption”, explains to the HuffPost Mathilde Touvier, director of the nutritional epidemiology research team at Inserm.

Are the French aware of this risk? In any case, in recent years, like milk and other vegetable steaks, non-alcoholic beers have become more and more popular. In five years, sales have more than doubled, recalls the JDD. A question then arises: is a non-alcoholic beer “good” for your health? And compared to what?

A non-alcoholic beer rather than a beer, yes

“It’s better to drink a non-alcoholic beer than a normal beer,” says Mathilde Touvier without hesitation. Once again, the harmful impact of alcohol on health, after a certain consumption, is no longer to be demonstrated.

“Drinking alcohol once in a while is probably fine. Once again, it is from one drink a day that there is an increase in risk”, specifies the researcher. And the more you drink, the greater the risk. As a result, drinking a glass of alcohol from time to time to start the aperitif, then switching to a non-alcoholic drink makes sense. But is non-alcoholic beer healthier or worse than soda or fruit juice?

Faced with sodas and juices, the question of sugar

Regarding the health impact of non-alcoholic beers, there is no need to be afraid of malt, barley or other ingredients specific to beer. “There is even research that suggests that fermented foods would be beneficial for the microbiota”. No, the problem of non-alcoholic beer is elsewhere.

“The main question comes from sugar,” explains Mathilde Touvier. The impact of sugary drinks on health is fairly well understood. “Sugar promotes the onset of cavities, NASH or ‘fatty liver disease’, increases cardiovascular mortality and the risk of diabetes,” explains the researcher. Accordingly, the nutritional recommendations for sugary drinks are to drink no more than one per day. As for alcohol.

However, non-alcoholic beers are sometimes very sweet. “To be sure, you have to look at the list of ingredients or check the Open Food Facts site,” advises Mathilde Touvier. “If you look at a classic non-alcoholic beer, you see that sugar is the second ingredient, just behind water. We therefore have a nutriscore D. Some non-alcoholic beers have a nutriscore of C because there is no or less added sugar”.

The nutriscore makes it possible to check the nutritional value of a product (sugar, saturated fats, salt, etc.). Label C means that the drink or food has an average nutritional quality. To “gain more points” and move towards A or B ratings (which reflects better nutritional quality), the product must contain elements to be favored in the general diet, such as fiber or protein.

The perfect summer drink contains no alcohol or sugar

“There is no exhaustive study, but when you look at some references on Open Food Facts, it seems that non-alcoholic beers are often less sweet than sodas, for example,” notes Mathilde Touvier. Conversely, “ginger beer”, these non-alcoholic ginger drinks are often very sweet.

To do things right, you have to look at the nutritional information (share of carbohydrates, including sugar, calorie intake, etc.). But beware, for beers like sodas, to a false friend: sweeteners like aspartame. “Beverages with sweeteners should not be recommended,” warns the researcher.

Studies on the subject are still limited and contradictory on the subject, but recent work, published in March 2022, seems to indicate a link between aspartame consumption and cancer in the NutriNet-Santé study.

The message is therefore not to favor sugar over aspartame, but rather to favor drinks without (too much) sugar or sweeteners. “In summer, to cool off, you must clearly avoid alcohol and sugary drinks, which do not quench your thirst. And choose, for example, a lemonade or a sugar-free cocktail with sparkling or still water and a mint leaf,” advises Mathilde Touvier.

See also on The HuffPost: The drinks to favor or to avoid in the face of the heat wave

This article was originally published on The HuffPost and has been updated.


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